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Smooth export flows at risk as lockdown is extended

It was no real surprise when President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced an extension to the Covid-19 lockdown by another two weeks. South Africa's mortality rate due to the virus has remained low: 27 deaths, but it is inevitable that an infection spike is to follow, experts say.

The big concern for them, an apple exporter says, is getting empty containers. "Our harvest is 80% in, fortunately, but the fruit has to keep moving, otherwise the transit stores are filling up with cartons. So most things are running normally, it's container availability that's becoming our biggest problem."

Ports are experiencing low reefer equipment supply.

There may well be vessels that bypass ports, the Citrus Growers' Association has warned its members, with no end in sight to berthing delays, despite an increase in staffing levels at some ports.

"The limitation of vessel calls to port, as well as delays, will very well prohibit the smooth flow of exports to markets," reads their daily logistics report.

"Breakbulk SRS vessels have been called in to load for EU/UK/Russia and are calling Cape Town, PE and Durban ports. The first breakbulk SRS vessel for Japan and China co-load is planned for 24 April."

The Citrus Growers' Association also advise their members against planning too far ahead, as extreme changeability is keeping everyone on their toes. Industry bodies are playing a vital role in communicating official regulations and its continual (and necessary) amendments.

There were difficulties to transporting seasonal workers in the Western Cape back to their domiciles after the table grape and stonefruit seasons, since this involved transport across provincial lines. The citrus season is moving up a gear, necessitating large movements of workers.

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