Long-delayed maintenance by Transnet of South Africa’s ports and of the railway network – key to moving goods from inland to ships waiting to ferry them to international markets – is stoking fears that the logistics parastatal may be going the same way as ailing power supplier Eskom.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Frustrated citrus growers said this week that Transnet potentially posed the biggest threat to the export industry. Millions of tonnes of fruit were standing uncollected in cold storage at the Durban Port. Delays and congestion were preventing containers from being loaded on to vessels bound for Asia, Europe and North America.

South Africa’s agricultural exports soared to $10.2-billion (about R160-billion) last year, with fruits and nuts accounting for close to 40% of that.

Over the past decade, citrus fruit has become South Africa’s largest agricultural subsector. The global boom in demand and prices of commodities in 2021 has further swelled the citrus market. Local growers are anxious that port backlogs may see them miss out on this boom.

In a letter to its members on 27 September, the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) said machinery and equipment at the ports were…

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