Insurrection: Citrus industry starts picking up the pieces

The Citrus Growers’ Association has rolled out its recovery plan to ensure full economic recovery following a week of anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal. While some delays are expected with exports, the industry is hopeful for full recovery

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With calm having been restored in most parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the citrus industry has begun rolling out its recovery plan to salvage as much of the 2021 season as possible and to continue exports.

The Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) has laid out its best plan of action to restore the industry.

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association and chairperson of Fruit SA’s board. Photo: CGA
Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association and chairperson of Fruit SA’s board. Photo: Supplied/CGA

This, following the wave of looting and arson that swept across the province and Gauteng last week, leaving the citrus value chain severely impacted.

However, according to Justin Chadwick, chief executive of the CGA, they have and will continue to ensure that citrus is exported to key markets and full recovery of the entire value chain in KwaZulu-Natal is ensured.

With volumes of citrus to markets, including the European Union, Middle East, China and the United States, being squeezed last week, the industry has now implemented its strategy around this.

“Growers in the northern provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga have been diverting their fruit to other ports across the country, with citrus from other regions continuing to be exported from Cape Town and Coega ports,” Chadwick says.

Catching up on backlogs

While the entire value chain in KwaZulu-Natal is a long way from full recovery, the CGA is on a mission to ensure that the value chain is restored.

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To aid this recovery, the industry role players have been engaging with stakeholders in the public and private sectors on a daily basis to stay abreast of the situational analysis on the ground and to identify any risks that are hampering the full recovery of the supply chain.

The collected information is then provided to government on a continuous basis through CGA’s membership in Agbiz, Chadwick explains.

ALSO READ: Looting: Parts of N3 open again, Didiza announces

The industry has confirmed that it is expecting some shipping delays due to bottlenecks caused by last week’s shut down. This, despite the port receiving reefer containers.

According to Chadwick, “[This] could also have a knock-on effect at ports in the Eastern and Western Cape that are reliant on reefer containers flowing from the Durban port.”

“The industry has therefore urgently called for ports to open for 24 hours in order to catch up on backlogs and ensure the export season continues to run smoothly.”

Chadwick reports that all citrus fruit cold storage facilities in the province are fully secured and operational.

Traffic is also flowing on the N2 and N3. However, many truck businesses were impacted by the violence, which means truck supply is stretched in the region.

“Many truckers are also only prepared to transport cargo during the day, in light of ongoing security concerns. The CGA has therefore requested that South African Defence Force (SANDF) troops continue to man both highways in order to allow for trucks to run 24 hours a day,” Chadwick says.

Protect the citrus value chain

Meanwhile, the industry is also calling for SANDF troops to continue to be deployed to other key sites across the citrus value chain including Durban port, the NATCOR railway, land food distribution centres and cold stores in hotspot areas such as Hammersdale and Cato Ridge.

Crucially, the safety of workers travelling to their workplaces also needs to be guaranteed. 

“With food shortages still posing an immediate threat in a number of areas in KwaZulu Natal, the citrus industry is also engaging with government on any assistance it can provide to deliver food and necessities to communities impacted by the unrest,” Chadwick explains.

Chadwick adds, they remain committed to working with government and stakeholders across the citrus value chain on a recovery plan. This is to continue meeting market demand and to mitigate the devastating impact of the violence on the industry and the country’s economy as a whole.

ALSO READ: Resilient food supply chains ‘will defy democracy attack’

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