An uneventful and smooth end to Mzansi’s citrus season. This is what the acting CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association, Paul Hardman, is counting on as he oversees the final days of what has been a very challenging citrus season.
The association recently announced that Hardman will be stepping in for Justin Chadwick, who is on a ten-week sabbatical after twenty years of service.
Talking to Food For Mzansi, Hardman said, “I’m just in the acting CEO position as caretaker while Justin Chadwick enjoys some extended, well-deserved leave.”
Hardman has been serving as industry affairs manager for the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) for more than 17 years.
His main focus is food safety and quality assurance requirements for the more than 80 countries receiving South African citrus.
He also works closely with governments, retailers, exporters, researchers, agricultural inputs companies and growers to ensure compliance to food safety expectations.
Hardman has furthermore been involved in overseeing special export programmes, in supporting market access initiatives and more recently in building IT platforms for a simpler and paperless fruit export process.
Citrus season almost over
According to Hardman his responsibilities as caretaker will include overseeing the closing of the citrus season in the next two weeks. This, he hopes, will take place without any hiccups after the rollercoaster year the citrus industry experienced.
“There was a very large crop to move this year, through constrained ports, during times of unrest and into markets that have been under pressure,” said Hardman.
The industry has had to deal with sea freight disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a container shortage that had to be urgently solved. In July, the wave of looting and arson across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was followed by a cyber-attack on Transnet, which controls the Durban port. This caused a backlog of fruit across the citrus supply chain and temporary delays in exports to key markets.
“So, we are hoping these last few weeks are not eventful and will run smoothly. We are nevertheless on standby in case we are called upon to address any late-season issues,” Hardman said.
Citrus has a bright future
Meanwhile, Hardman recently attended the launch of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy’s (BFAP) Baseline 2021 report. It provided a perspective on the current state of the SA agricultural sector and where it could possibly be by 2030, Hardman said.
“Attending the annual launch of the BFAP Baseline is like going for an annual medical check-up. It is a good thing to do, even if the news could be bad,” he said.
Some key take-outs from this year’s event, Hardman pointed out, included the agricultural sector being a shining light against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether this remains true going forward depends more on an enabling trading environment than anything else, agricultural role players believe.
Another highlight was that horticulture, and citrus specifically, features prominently in the future, showing strong growth.
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