Money and Markets

Citrus industry warns of another year constraints at the ports, following a tough 2021

Business Insider SA
the logistics and packaging of orange fruits in a
The logistics and packaging of orange fruits in a warehouse. (Image: Getty)
  • The citrus growers association expects 2022 to be challenging for exporters because of logistics and shipping problems.
  • The association has said that exporters should expect the unexpected and develop well-thought-out logistics plans.
  • 2021 was a challenging year for citrus growers who, at a point, halted harvesting citrus to help ease congestion at the Durban port.
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Citrus growers and other exporters will have to brace themselves for another year of port constraints, following a series of challenges last year, including the insurrection of July that caused delays at major ports, the citrus industry has warned.

Logistics and shipping will be a “serious impediment” in 2022, Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), said in his latest newsletter.

“It is likely that port operations in 2022 will be constrained – the necessary resources to bring about the needed improvement in efficiency will take some time to come to fruition. Exporters need a thorough and well-developed logistics plan for 2022,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick described 2021 as an annus horribilis year for the citrus industry.

Last year, the citrus industry contended with a few challenges, including a cyber-attack on rail, port, and pipeline company, Transnet, which impacted container terminals at major ports, including Durban, Ngqura Gqeberha, and Cape Town.

The attack caused a logjam at the Durban port, prompting the association for citrus and the Produce Exporters Forum to issue a notice to farmers in northern parts of the country delivering to Durban to halt harvesting and packing fruit in an attempt to ease the congestion.

Prior to that, looting activity which took place mostly in KwaZulu-Natal during the July insurrection caused significant disruptions at the Durban port leading to shipping delays affecting cold storage operations.

“Exporters will need to keep their ear to the ground to ensure they are aware of events that impact on the plan – and be prepared to adapt to these changes. One thing we learnt in 2021 was to expect the unexpected – hopefully, in 2022, this does not include an insurrection or a cyberattack,” Chadwick said.

Any operational challenges at the ports threaten the citrus industry, which in 2020 produced 2.8 million tons of fruit. According to the CGA, in 2021, Southern African citrus growers delivered 161.6 million cartons of local citrus across the world, increasing by 18.6 million cartons from the year prior.

Chadwick said CGA will engage daily with the port operator on operational issues.

“We will feed through information/intelligence as it gets known, and we will encourage and support the port operator wherever possible,” he said.

“In this way, the thousands of logistics decisions made on a daily basis will be informed decisions, and we can get to not only export the big volume anticipated for 2022, but export it timeously and in line with marketing plans,” Chadwick said. 

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