High transport costs hampering agricultural sector’s competitiveness

The high cost of transport and logistics in South Africa is having a negative impact on the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.

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This is according to Nhlanhla Nene, advisor at Thebe Investment Corporation. Nene was a speaker at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Connections Conference in Pretoria.

“We must expand our trade beyond our borders, but to do this we have to address the cost and ease of moving goods,” he said. This is essential to ensure that the cost of doing business does not become prohibitively expensive and that exporters remain competitive. “There is a need for policy intervention to reduce the cost of transport,” he said.

South Africa faced numerous problems that impacted the sector’s ability to make a larger contribution to the economy and create more jobs, he said, but added that decision-makers could find solutions. “Policy uncertainty and a lack of implementation are problem areas and we need to deal with them with vigour.”

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Thomas Mouton, head of apples and pears at Core Fruit, a global fruit supplier, said that logistics was not a challenge unique to South Africa. “Logistics is one of the biggest challenges on the continent, but we’ve also found that unlike five years ago, ports in the region have improved. We don’t struggle to get our containers in anymore,” Mouton said.

In other countries on the continent poor logistics and road infrastructure have not affected sales or demand for apples.

“Apples are hardy and less perishable fruit and can handle logistical strain, unlike stone fruit or grapes. They can also be sold on street corners by vendors [without losing quality as quickly as other fruit],” he said.