By Zandile Majavu
The fruit producer association, Hortgro, has lambasted Transnet for delays at the country’s ports, warning that it could lose its farms. The association has now announced that it is considering taking legal action against the state-owned entity for the congestion at Cape Town port terminals. Hortgro spokesperson Elise-Marie Steenkamp told Vutivi News that “this can be seen as a disaster. Man-made. Somebody must be responsible. The productivity at the harbour is at a record low.”
Steenkamp explained that the stone, pome, and table grape industries were big players in the Western Cape economy and employed thousands of workers. If produce remained at the harbours, workers’ incomes were on the line. “Transnet needs to take the hand of industry. We have offered to bring in outside expertise to help solve the crisis strategically and operationally. These offers have not been accepted yet,” she added.
The Richards Bay port crisis in November last year, due to one of the port terminals being issued with a non-compliance stop work certificate over environmental management issues, led to a complete halt and partial shutdown. According to Transnet, adverse weather conditions and the availability of equipment caused the delays. In November, it reported that it was implementing several urgent interventions to address the backlogs at the Durban port to ease the congestion and minimise the impact on the economy.
Meanwhile, Road Freight Association (RFA) CEO Gavin Kelly, told Vutivi News that the most recent delays at Cape Town could be anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. “Whenever there is a delay in the logistics chain, there is a concomitant effect on the revenue generation of a business. Either there are added costs relating to delays and the search for alternative supply or transport methods, or there is a loss in revenue due to products not being ready for sale,” Kelly said.
He pointed out that the delays would increase costs, which would potentially decrease sales revenue. And this, in turn, would place cash flow pressures on businesses. “Should these continue, then small businesses will be at risk as generally, they do not have the reserves to carry them through such challenges. The situation has been going on for too long,” Kelly added.