Large volumes of South African citrus that are usually exported from the Port of Cape Town are now being sent to Eastern Cape ports in the interest of keeping supplies constant. The Port of Cape Town has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a backlog of vessels outside the port.
According to the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA), citrus containers are being transported to Port Elizabeth and Ngqura, as they are operating at full capacity.
In a newsletter, the organisation noted that many citrus stakeholders expressed concern at the start of the national lockdown over the reduction in capacity at the container terminals operated by Transnet.
“However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Cape Town container terminal which has only been able to operate at 50% capacity due to high numbers of staff being affected by the pandemic,” the CGA said.
“Exports of citrus are continuing from Cape Town with the main focus on services to Europe, UK, Med, Russia and North America, however due to delayed berthing, shipments are being delayed. Citrus containerized exports from the Western Cape are being trucked in high volume to Port Elizabeth and Ngqura for exporting to ensure continuity in supply to markets.”
There was an initial disruption at all the four major exporting ports in early April, which is well before the start of the country’s peak citrus production season. According to the CGA, Transnet had boosted capacity at the Durban, Port Elizabeth and Ngqura terminals to 100% and eliminated berthing delays by the end of April.
The main European continental services such as Maersk, Safmarine, DAL, ONE Line and Hamburg Sud have recently begun omitting Cape Town
“This is deemed a much more conducive measure to keep the supply of citrus consistent,” the CGA said.
“Transnet are in the process of gearing the Cape Town container terminal to reach 100% operating capacity and this should be achieved quite soon with the main backlog of vessels being cleared over a short period of time (many vessels are bypassing Cape Town so the vessel backlog is only 6 vessels at this time). The conventional breakbulk service provided by the Reefer Alliance (Seatrade and Baltic Shipping) has been operating without any delays and a vessel a week is calling Durban, PE and Cape Town for shipments to Europe and Russia.”
Breakbulk shipments to Japan and China are continuing as usual from Durban and to the United States from Cape Town.