South African fruit growers bruised by supply chain woes

3 April 2012

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3 April 2012 | Angeline Albert

The supply chain of South Africa’s fruit industry is at risk from escalating logistics costs, unreliable port services and damaging potholes, say the country’s growers.

Industry body Fruit South Africa, whose members include the Fresh Produce Exporters' Forum, Citrus Growers' Association of Southern Africa, Hortgro Services, the Subtropical Growers' Association and the South African Table Grape Industry says growers’ future is at risk because of these issues.

Fruit farmers trying to export fresh produce have said they are facing a series of delays at ports. Ships calling at South Africa’s busiest container port in Durban have been forced to wait or are redirected to other ports because of insufficient capacity. An ongoing issue of strikes by port workers has also caused delays. The delays are turning into increased costs for importers and exporters, including extra cold storage to protect fruit meaning higher energy costs are paid.

In an open letter, Justin Chadwick, chairman of Fruit South Africa, which supports 400,000 farm workers, said: “The challenges for the fresh fruit industry in South Africa and other regions are escalating production costs, exorbitant logistics costs and a great deal of inefficiency and ineffectiveness at port level. The inefficiency of our ports is in itself driving the high cost of sea freight, which is passed back to the growers.”

Transnet, which operates the port has not responded to SM’s request for comment. But on the company’s website it says the ‘Quantum Leap’ initiative aims to reduce delays and ship turnaround time in Durban.

Potholes on South Africa’s roads are adding to supply chain risks by bruising fruit being transported, which requires more packaging to protect the fruit and higher costs.

With growers in Gauteng closer to the port of Maputo in Mozambique than Durban, the industry is looking at exporting produce via Mozambique and through other countries such as Namibia.

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