Eastern Cape protests have cost citrus growers R270 million in export fruit and infrastructure damage

Citrus growers in a part of the Eastern Cape have lost almost R300 million over the past three weeks after Sundays River Valley, a key producing region in that province, was rocked by protest action.

Citrus-producing farms located in Sundays River Valley have lost over R200 million in fruit meant to be exported, Hennie Ehlers, Chairman of the Sunday Rivers Valley Citrus Producers' Forum, told Business Insider South Africa on Tuesday.

Additionally, losses relating to damage to property have cost farmers R70 million.

"The outbreak of violent protests on citrus-producing farms in the Sundays River Valley region has caused extensive damage to citrus growers' property, infrastructure, orchards, and packhouses," Ehlers said.

"The damages incurred have been particularly devastating, given that over the past number of years, relationships between community, employers, and employees in the valley have been harmonious," he said.

Exporters who had already secured space on shelves overseas are now unable to fill them up. Farmers have also fallen behind their fruit picking schedules, resulting in lower export volumes.

Losses pertaining to the non-delivery of fruit will be determined at a later stage, Ehlers said.

"The loss of income increases on a daily basis, as fruit falls to the ground, while growers lose out on the export season's earlier window to ship lemons and mandarins," he said.

The protest action, which began about three weeks ago, is threatening the industry's sustainability in the Sundays River region and comes at a time when the sector faces immense financial pressures, with farmers having to contend with rising input costs including electricity, fertiliser, and freight rates.


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