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Supply chain logisitics

"South Africa: "We need to do things differently"

As the cost of producing South African fruit and vegetables continues to rise it is time to pause and look at the supply chain. This is according to Mitchell Brooke, Logistics Development Manager at Citrus Growers Association.

Speaking at last week's Cool Logistics conference in Rotterdam he said, "Wages have increased 52% this year, electricity 300% in the last four and diesel 60%, this has pushed the production cost of citrus up."

The port and shipping costs have also increased so something needs to be done to make savings along the chain.

Brooke stated that costs from farm gate to arrival in the EU have increased by 60%, "This is not sustainable." Another point he made was difference between farm price and retail price in Europe which was in some cases a mark up of 300%.

On a positive note in the south the country where growers are closer to the ports has been highly progressive. "Around 12 million Rand has been saved by packing directly into containers on the farm, then transporting them to the ports. The northern regions need to change as well and capitalise and become more efficient."

He goes on to say that there has been a massive increase in container traffic through the port of Durban, as much as 20% with containers coming from as far a 1000km away. "The infrastructure cannot sustain this. This season containers have been left waiting 3 days with no gensets, there are too many containers in the port. Trucks are stuck waiting to unload, leaving fruit stranded at packhouses for as long as two weeks."

The port of Maputo in the north east has seen a severe decline in specialised reefer ships due to the increase in container traffic at Durban. "We need to do things differently," comments Brooke. The port of Maputo needs to be revitalised, the northern citrus producers produce 1 million tons of citrus just 80kms from the port.

Brooke is keen to encourage the rail link directly to Capetown port from Limpopo in the north, this is already in place but the operators, Transnet, seem to be unwilling to divert their attention from the bulk rail cargoes of coal and ore from the mines to the ports of Saldhana and Richards Bay.

"There is as much 27,000 40ft containers produced, that is surely enough to sustain the rail net work throughout the season."

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