Development of SA’s busiest port welcomed by citrus growers

Transnet’s plan to develop and extend the citrus handling capabilities at the Durban Port has been welcomed by the Citrus Growers Association. Picture: Supplied

Transnet’s plan to develop and extend the citrus handling capabilities at the Durban Port has been welcomed by the Citrus Growers Association. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 18, 2023


Transnet’s request for proposals to develop a multi-purpose terminal for citrus and other fruit handling purposes at the Port in Durban’s Maydon Wharf area has been welcomed by the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) this week.

With the Durban Port playing a crucial role in the exportation of fruit and other goods, congestion and other delays at the harbour have hindered the country’s output capabilities to some extent, according to Paul Hardman, Chief Operating Officer at CGA.

Hardman was responding to questions posed by IOL regarding some of the challenges the industry faces in exporting their goods and how the Transnet proposal could alleviate those challenges.

The Maydon Wharf precinct is approximately 145 hectares and boasts 15 common-user berths and an annual cargo capacity of over 7 million tons, according to Transnet.

The Transnet tender to develop the port will run for a period of 25 years.

Parties interested in responding to Transnet’s request for proposals have until January 2024 to submit their replies.

South Africa’s citrus producing capabilities is a marvel enjoyed across the globe and is considered the second largest exporter of citrus products behind Spain.

But the high demand for South African fresh produce is not being fully used to the country’s advantage, as delays are resulting in smaller profit margins for farmers, Hardman said.

Oranges, grapefruit, Mandarins, and lemons are grown in KZN for export.

While South Africa exports citrus goods like oranges to almost 100 countries, the European Union is the biggest customer, accounting for around 40% of total foreign sales, according to a report by the United States Foreign Agriculture Service.

But since July, the EU has ordered that citrus exports undergo specified cold treatment processes and pre-cooling steps to prevent citrus black spot (CBS) and false codling moth (FCM).

A breakdown of South Africa’s citrus exports for 2022. Picture: Supplied

The exportation of fruit requires an arduous process to be seen through by farmers, who are responsible for harvesting, packaging, and cold-storing their produce before it can be shipped off.

The role of KwaZulu-Natal, and Durban in particular, within the context of the citrus exportation industry could not be overstated, as citrus producers from across the country, including the largest producer in South Africa, Limpopo, rely on Durban’s port, Hardman explained.

“The CGA welcomes the news that Transnet is seeking private investors to build and operate a terminal at its Durban port to export citrus and other fruit. The steps Transnet has taken in recent months towards public-private partnerships at ports and on the Durban-JHB rail line are encouraging and a reason to be cautiously optimistic.

“This past season, we have seen considerable truck congestion at ports. Operational performance on container movements through ports has been affected by malfunctioning machinery and equipment.

“This has affected Durban and Cape Town terminals, mostly where ageing equipment is crippling operations. Delays in export citrus reaching their destinations have a big financial impact on the industry,” Hardman said.

The industry was waiting for something like this to come along, the CGA executive explained, as the citrus industry is ripe with opportunities for domestic economic expansion and job creation.

“Projections are that, if all role-players work together, an additional 100 million cartons of fruit can flow from pack houses to ports over the next nine years, growing to 260 million. This means the industry could potentially sustain a further 100,000 jobs and generate an additional R20 billion in annual revenue, bringing its contribution to 240,000 jobs and R50 billion,” Hardman concluded.