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Hortgro reacts to improvements in the Port of Cape Town’s Container Terminal

Posted on March 4, 2024

Signs of better management at container terminal in Cape Town but still a long road ahead, says industry body Hortgro

New management, more transparency, better cooperation, and ongoing improvements have helped to turn around the backlog at the Cape Town port (CTP) for fruit exports.

This is the view of South African fruit industry body Hortgro, which however points out that there is still a long road ahead to get port productivity on a par with the rest of the world.

Hortgro points out that in February there were fewer wind delays compared with previous years, resulting in a more fluid situation in the port. They say however that a substantial volume of export fruit did not use the Cape Town Container Terminal but was instead transported overland to Eastern Cape ports, or in specialised reefer vessels that do not load at the container terminal. This was all at ”considerable expense” to the industry, says Hortgro in a communique to the industry.

“We are over the peaks of the table grape and stone fruit seasons and early pear varieties,” says Jacques du Preez, Hortgro’s general Mmanager of trade and markets. “For table grapes and stone fruit, the season is winding down while the apple and pear harvest is in full swing and building towards its peak.”

The port of Cape Town has been in the news for a long period due to delays in the container terminal, inefficiencies and disruption by strong winds which affected loading and movement in an out of the port.

During this period, the shipment of large volumes of export table grapes and stonefruit were disrupted. This led to uneven arrivals and fruit arriving in an advanced state of maturity in destination markets.

Fruit was moved to other South African ports, and increased shipments on conventional, specialised reefer vessels were introduced to alleviate congestion in the container terminal.

Du Preez says there is still a long way to go to return the port to its previous efficient operational performance. However, it seems as if the port is heading in the right direction. “There has been damage for the stonefruit industry”.

Hortgro says old equipment remains the biggest problem at the terminal. “Replacement of most of the equipment and expansion of the fleet is desperately needed. Equipment purchase lead times are also a challenge, as well as funding.”

Hortgro says the export schedule is still lagging. “Reputational damage to the fruit industry will take a long time to repair. Public-private partnerships are the only route to replace equipment and get separation between the landlord Transnet National Ports Authority and operator Transnet Port Terminals.”

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