Ongoing shortages of diesel in parts of the country are hitting harvesting citrus farmers hard. Diesel prices have skyrocketed and supplies are short in certain provinces due to a spate of diesel thefts from Transnet’s fuel pipelines.
The agricultural value chain is heavily dependent on diesel for harvesting and transporting produce to offset points. According to Citrus Growers Association CEO Justin Chadwick the citrus industry is negatively impacted by the diesel shortages as they are already in harvest season.
The biggest impact was experienced in the northern parts of the country. In parts of Limpopo farmers were forced to pay R2,50 more for diesel. Damage to Transnet pipelines means that trucks and tankers now drive diesel from the ports by road, which is time-consuming and adds to the cost of the fuel. This increases the cost of transporting citrus to Durban ports, said Chadwick
“The worst-case scenario is if we actually run dry and there isn’t enough diesel available, then that would impact on our ability to transport fruit down to the ports,” he said.
Diesel has been an ongoing challenge for farmers for a while due to a spate of diesel thefts by syndicates at Transnet’s supply lines, says Agri SA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede. He says that last week’s deadly explosion at the Astron Energy refinery in Cape Town will also have an exponential impact on farmers who are in harvest season, as it will exacerbate the diesel problems they already have.
“Farmers that are harvesting grain, maize or soya at this point in time really need to use huge quantities (of diesel). They can easily, depending on circumstances, use up to 1000 litres in half an hour,” he says. That is why it is critical for those farmers to have access to large quantities of diesel at a good price at this time.
Van der Rheede says damage to the pipeline means that trucks and tankers now have to drive diesel from the ports by road, which is time-consuming and adds to the cost of the fuel.