“Industry high standards, agility, and resilience made quick adaptions possible.”

‘Ships a-sailin' amidst Covid challenges

During Week 25 of the current pome fruit season, there was a marked increase in apple exports. This in contrast to previous weeks where the impact of Covid-19 played havoc with the logistics and the ports, delaying shipments of pome fruit in especially the Cape Town port. From the beginning of May, weekly shipments have been less compared to the same period last season, said Jacques du Preez, Hortgro’s Trade and Markets Manager.

However, an above-average volume of pome fruit left our shores in week 25. The table below indicates all the major vessels that sailed in week 25 contributing to the spike. The Santa Isabel with 713 595 eqv. cartons (35%) on board was the vessel with the most apples shipped, followed by the Santa Rosa with 325 565 cartons (16%) and the MSC Michela with 285 080 cartons (14%).

Shipments during Week 25.

The ability of the industry to operate within these difficult times is a testament to years of building on and creating high standards. According to Hortgro Executive Director, Anton Rabe, producers and packhouses responded wonderfully to the challenge and managed to adapt their operations relating to hygiene/sanitation, social distancing, and challenges relating to the transport of workers virtually overnight given the status of the essential service of our industry.

“Our biggest challenge since Covid-19 so unexpectedly disrupted our lives was to get the crop harvested and in the cold stores, to continue with packing operations and to unblock bottlenecks especially in the ports and regulatory matters relating to our special markets where pre-clearance inspectors are required on both sides relating to amongst others USA, Mexico, Taiwan, and China,” Rabe said.

“The agility and ability of the industry to respond so effectively are due to the decades of being used to high hygiene standards and health, safety, and worker compliance.”

From an industry perspective, we provided guidelines and information on best practices, tried to make sense of the many and sometimes conflicting regulations. The ports remain a challenge but as part of a broader Fruit SA collective, we are dealing with the ongoing capacity constraints with various players in the port, whilst DALRRD and PPECB continue to work with the various industries to find solutions to ensure continued exports.


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