Government will be working closely with Transnet to improve the operational efficiencies at Mzansi Ports, announced pres. Cyril Ramaphosa in his sixth State of the Nation address (SONA) in parliament.
In his speech last night Ramaphosa acknowledged that it was impossible for the economy to grow without efficient ports and railways.
He pointed out that over several years, the functioning of Mzansi’s ports had declined relative to ports in other parts of the world and on the African continent, which constrains economic activity.
“The agricultural sector, for example, relies heavily on efficient, well-run ports to export their produce to overseas markets.
“Fresh produce cannot wait for days and even weeks stuck in a terminal. This hurts businesses and compromises our country’s reputation as an exporter of quality fresh produce,” Ramaphosa pointed out.
Ahead of the SONA, the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) called on Ramaphosa to provide an update on government’s short-term plan to address the immediate challenges at South African ports.
Justin Chadwick, CEO of the CGA said if the port inefficiencies were to continue, the future profitability and sustainability of the industry will be under severe threat.
“While government’s longer-term plans to turn around the ports, including a R100 billion infrastructure development project at Durban port and plans to secure private sector partner investment into the ports over the next few years, is welcomed, immediate intervention is desperately required at the Durban and Cape Town ports to ensure citrus reaches key markets on time in 2022,” Chadwick said.
Meanwhile, in his address, the president confirmed that Transnet was addressing these challenges through procuring additional equipment and implementing new systems to reduce congestion.
Transnet is expected to ask for proposals from private partners for the Durban and Ngqura container terminals within the next few months. According to Ramaphosa this will enable partnerships to be in place at both terminals by October 2022.
In reaction to his speech, Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede took to social media and said, “The agricultural sector relies on effectively functioning ports to export to the rest of the world! Thank you for listening to the sector Mr President. Now we want action.”
Land Reform efforts will continue
Other good news from the SONA is that that when it comes to land reform in the country Ramaphosa considers the expanding of access to land as vital.
“The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure will finalise the transfer of 14,000 hectares of state land to the Housing Development Agency.
“We have enough arable land to support millions of thriving small-scale farmers in poultry, livestock, fruit and vegetables,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that government was planning to move ahead with land reform in terms of the Constitution. He anticipates the approval of the Expropriation Bill during this year.
The establishment of the Agriculture and Land Reform Development Agency, he said would also be finalised this year.
Support for small-scale farmers
Support to smallholder farmers is also expected to be amped up. According to Ramaphosa the Presidential Employment Stimulus and the Solidarity Fund has proven to be effective and impactful.
As a result government will be expanding the provision of input vouchers and calling on other sectors to join this effort, to collectively reach up to 250,000 small-scale farmers this year.
Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus and the Solidarity Fund, over 100,000 farmers is reported to have already received input vouchers to expand their production.
“The agriculture sector has also recognised the importance of supporting small-scale farmers and integrating them into value chains.
“Through the sugar master plan, the industry has provided R225 million to over 12,000 small-scale sugar cane growers as part of a R1 billion commitment to support black farmers,” Ramaphosa said in his SONA..
Further on the series of masterplans, the president pointed out that the plans in the sugar and poultry industries were contributing significantly to increased investment, improved production and transformation.
Some of the country’s mature industries have a lot to offer in revamping the industrial and manufacturing potential of our country, he said.
Pointing to agriculture, Ramaphosa said the sector had significant potential for job creation in crops such as citrus, table and dried grapes, subtropical fruit, avocados, berries and nuts.
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