As Durban ports are working hard to make up for the backlog in citrus exports, Eastern Cape citrus producers are trying to maintain fruit production and exports. Port delays, Covid-19 restrictions and severe drought conditions are just some of the challenges producers face in the Eastern Cape. This region is, of course, responsible for a quarter of South Africa’s total citrus exports.
However, delays at port terminals in Durban are expected be resolved within only a few days, according to CEO of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (Cgasa), Justin Chadwick: “The widespread violence in KwaZulu-Natal did not reach any of our farms or pack houses, and since the N3 and ports in Durban have reopened we have been able to move the fruit waiting in our cold stores. Port staff are working around the clock and the backlog will soon be eliminated.”
Besides the impact the recent violence and Covid-19 have had on global shipping, some experts claim that climate remained the biggest challenge. The drought, punctuated by recent spells of extreme cold, is a much greater cause for concern than export delays. Dam levels in Nelson Mandela Bay were at a combined 9.98% on Wednesday with the Kouga Dam at 3.91%, Churchill at 12.97%, Impofu at 14.3% and Groendal at 23.24%.
Despite the region’s troubles, national citrus production could be looking at a record harvest in 2021. To date 62-million cartons of citrus, each containing 15kg, have been exported, while 86-million cartons have been packed. At the current trajectory, cartons exported by the end of 2021 will likely surpass the 150-million in 2020.