- Transnet Port Terminals announced that it had beaten its target of 13% increase in citrus export volumes despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Citrus fruits comprise 55% of South Africa's fruit exports and are exported to more than a hundred countries around the world.
- Analysts say the better-than-expected figures for local citrus fruit exports point to a resilient local agriculture sector - and that SA should take advantage of possibly depressed demand from other exporters.
Transnet Port Terminals announced on Wednesday that it had bested its target of 13% increase in citrus export volumes despite the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on business due to the national lockdown.
According to a statement, citrus volumes were 20.2% higher at the Cape Town Container Terminal, 31.2% higher at the Durban Container Terminals and 32.3% higher than prior year volumes at the Ngqura and Port Elizabeth Container Terminals.
Citrus a key export
South Africa exports citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruits to markets including the European Union and the United States of America. Citrus fruits comprise 55% of South Africa's fruit exports, and are sent to more than a hundred countries around the world.
Transnet Port Terminals general manager for sales and new business development, Siyabulela Mhlaluka, said the ports business was working to improve the availability of equipment, "plug points and human resources".
"We are halfway through the citrus season and despite the well-documented challenge of Covid-19, TPT is exceeding the reefer targets having prepared well ahead," said Mhlaluka.
Mhlaluka said Transnet Port Terminals was in discussions with customers to maximise its 24-hour operations across terminals to limit congestion at peak hours for better cargo flow.
The Transnet Port Terminals statement cited a report from the Citrus Growers Association, which said annual growth in export volumes is attributed to new orchards coming into production, as well as good rains.
Senior associate of Tutwa Consulting, Azwimpheleli Langalanga, said the better-than-expected figures for local citrus fruit exports were a positive sign and pointed to a resilient local agriculture sector.
"That is welcome news. It also represents the resilience of our agriculture sector and is one of the sectors that has continued to perform in difficult times. Remember we have the citrus black spot challenge which blocked our fruit exports to the EU markets," said Langalanga.
Langalanga said the increase in citrus exports could also point to depressed demand for similar products from other exporters in the world and that South Africa should continue to leverage its resilient agriculture beyond the lockdown.