Logistics challenges could hurt innovative citrus industry

While citrus stakeholders have historically always pushed through adversity, major logistical challenges threaten the industry. Besides the worldwide container shortage, rail inefficiencies should also be addressed

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Despite logistical challenges to secure global exports, South Africa’s innovative citrus industry now expects export volumes for 2021 to, at the very least, equal last year’s levels.

In its latest newsletter, the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) estimates that export volumes for this year will reach 163 million cartons. Each carton will weigh 15kg.

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

Chief executive Justin Chadwick says, “Lemon packing in 2021 is mirroring that of 2020 with almost five million cartons packed to date.

“Grapefruit packing is ahead of 2020. The variety focus groups will meet (later) in April and review the predicted export volumes for 2021.”

By the end of 11 April, almost 60% of the Satsuma mandarin crop was already packed. Thus far, 3.2 million cartons of citrus products, have been shipped to international markets.

ALSO READ: New Fruit SA chair shares her plan for the industry

MSC South Africa confirms that the MSC Altair was originally scheduled to sail from the Far East to West Africa. However upon intervention the vessel was diverted to the Port of Ngqura to cater to the export fruit market which is “very crucial to the economy of South Africa”. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
MSC South Africa confirms that the MSC Altair was originally scheduled to sail from the Far East to West Africa. However upon intervention the vessel was diverted to the Port of Ngqura to cater to the export fruit market which is “very crucial to the economy of South Africa”. This follows a global shortage of reefer containers for exports. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

A year of logistical troubles

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Meanwhile Mzansi’s excellent year-on-year export performance hangs in the balance due to a severe global shortage of both reefer and dry sea containers.

Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo says although citrus stakeholders have historically pushed through industry challenges, logistics will again be tested this year.

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. Photo: Supplied.
Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Industry players, such as the CGA and other players in horticulture, have in the past few years expressed various concerns relating to the efficiency of South Africa’s logistics.

“Specifically, rail, with port congestion and a potential shortage of reefer equipment at the time,” he says.

According to Sihlobo closer collaboration between the rail industry, agriculture and agribusiness role players is required. This is crucial in addressing various operational inefficiencies and anticipating future challenges.

“A positive development is that the sector is in communication with key stakeholders such as Transnet, which will be instrumental in South Africa’s agricultural growth drive.”

ALSO READ: Container shortage threatens SA’s bumper fruit harvests

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