Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
All eyes on Durban harbour this coming citrus export season
Port efficiency will be paramount in Durban this year, according to Mitchell Brooke, logistics manager at the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa, who discussed the upcoming winter export season at a recent Transnet Citrus Readiness 2021 presentation.
According to Brooke, the estimates received from focus groups indicated that this year’s citrus crop would amount to about 158,7 million 15kg-equivalent cartons.
“This is quite a big jump from the 146 million cartons produced in the previous season,” he added.
Brooke said this season’s increase would come mainly from the northern citrus production region. The current estimate for this region was about 89 million cartons, which he described as significant.
‘IT WILL BE OUR MOST CHALLENGING PERIOD, AND WE’LL NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK TO MANAGE IT’
“The growth is driven mainly by the [ uptick] in Valencia [oranges] due to good rain in the Letsitele and Hoedspruit areas. Also, the soft citrus around the Ohrigstad and Burgersfort areas showed good growth this season,” he said.
Brooke added that citrus grown in the northern production region would most likely be transported to Durban. He expected considerable pressure from week 24 to week 34 due to farmers converting to late navel oranges, a very large late mandarin crop, and a bumper Valencia crop.
“Infrastructure and capacity will be tested during this period, given the estimates that are coming through. It’ll be our most challenging period, and we’ll need all hands on deck to manage it.”
Brooke said 95 000 reefer containers would be needed to export local citrus this season, and with deciduous and subtropical fruit volumes included, 120 000 containers would be required between April and October.
“We’re a bit concerned about Durban [harbour] and that massive peak when the Valencias [arrive]. We’ll have to monitor the situation closely.“
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Durban harbour recently to check on progress of commitments made in 2019. In a recent weekly newsletter, he said progress had been made over the past year in turning around the harbour’s performance.
Ramaphosa said the expansion of infrastructure at the harbour would require R100 billion in new investment over the next decade. “This will completely transform the port, expanding its capacity for container handling from 2,9 million units to over 11 million.” – Jeandré van der Walt