N3 closures may hold security risk for food transporters

N3 highway closures

Eskom will close parts of the N3 highway in KwaZulu-Natal at semi-regular intervals from 16 August to 1 September to install conductors. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Eskom’s decision to close parts of the N3 in KwaZulu-Natal in the coming weeks may create a logistical nightmare for trucks that will transporting agricultural products along the highway.

This may also affect the perishable goods being transported in the trucks and generate a security risk for those truck drivers as well.

This is the view of Agbiz chief executive Dr John Purchase after Eskom announced that it will close parts of the N3, a key trade route between Durban and Johannesburg for two-hour intervals from Monday, 16 August until Wednesday, 1 September 2020 to install conductors.

In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Purchase indicated that the agricultural industry had a difficult season this year, especially the citrus industry. This is due to the pandemic, port closures as well as the unrest that took place in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.

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Dr John Purchase, the CEO of Agbiz. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

He said any further disruptions along the N3 route will exacerbate farmers’ challenges and impact the whole agricultural value chain because there are a lot of agricultural products and processed goods being transported on this route.

“The N3 is a major artery to the economy of South Africa and if there are any disruptions or closures that causes congestion or causes security problems on the N3 then it certainly holds a risk for agriculture. It doesn’t matter if it is dairy or citrus or processed goods, they are all at risk. So, logistics is a key element in the whole value chain,” said Purchase.

Impact on citrus industry

Purchase indicated that the agricultural industry, the police and the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) need to ensure that our roads are functioning properly, and that security is always maintained on the road during this period.

He said this needs to be done particularly at a time when the citrus industry is currently in their export season.

“The citrus industry is currently in its export season and quite a lot of citrus gets exported down the N3 route. There are about 250 citrus trucks that travel down to Durban using the N3 highway per day so if there is not a constant flow down the N3 that will create an increased security risk.

“So, we will have to engage and see how we can manage the safety logistics as best as possible, probably with the South African Police Services and make sure that the N3 is kept safe because that is our biggest concern,” said Purchase. 

Bertus van Heerden, chief economist of the Milk Producers Organisation (MPO). Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Meanwhile Bertus van Heerden, chief economist of the Milk Producers’ Organisation revealed that the temporary road closures will affect the entire N3 route which may cause delays for trucks transporting dairy products on the trade route.

He indicated that even though the impact might not be that significant there will be perishable products that will be transported a long this route that could be affected if schedules are disrupted.

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