Citrus growers ask minister to prioritize Transnet repair in budget


The Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (SKV) calls on Enoch Godongwana, minister of finance, to make the financial recovery of Transnet a priority when he delivers his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday.

Transnet is asking R100 billion from the treasury to finance its recovery plan.

According to Justin Chadwick, chief executive of the SKV, rail services offer tremendous advantages to citrus growers in transporting their prized produce to ports. Due to the decay of South Africa’s rail network, 95% of all fruit in South Africa is currently transported by road with trucks to ports.

“The SCV wants to emphasize the urgency that Transnet must get back on track. Transnet is the backbone of the country’s export economy and deserves the immediate attention of the government,” Chadwick believes.

The association is asking the treasury to help with Transnet’s recovery plan, but “this support must be done on the condition of the further expansion of partnerships between the public and private sector in rail and port projects”.

“We have welcomed such projects in the past, including the selection of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) for the development and upgrading of the container terminal in the Durban port. More involvement in the private sector, and faster processes through which such involvement is ensured, are essential if there is to be a real turnaround at Transnet.”

If all local players work together, the prospect is that an additional 100 million 15 kg cartons of citrus can be transported from citrus farmers’ orchards to the ports in the next nine years. This will mean a job creation figure of 100 000 and an additional R20 billion in income.

“Without a functional rail network, this growth will not materialize. Our roads simply cannot handle the additional volumes; this amounts to around 900 truck trips per week in the peak season alone to the Durban port.”

According to Chadwick, functional ports are also of crucial importance and the malfunctioning of the country’s ports is likewise a threat to growth. Currently, an average of 16 containers are moved per hour in South African ports, while the average is 33 in Europe and 43 in the Middle East.

“We hope that few Godongwana’s policy statement will be clear about Transnet’s central role in our economy and that the government will provide the entity with the support it requires, with the understanding that partnerships between the private and public sectors must be expanded without delay.”