Farmers counting costs

The Transnet strike has grounded more than 100000 tons of fruit and vegetables meant for overseas markets and is causing concern and anxiety in the commercial farming industry.

The Transnet strike has grounded more than 100000 tons of fruit and vegetables meant for overseas markets and is causing concern and anxiety in the commercial farming industry.

Prime freighter Transnet has suspended the transportation of goods to harbours after its workers went on strike last week. The strike has disrupted the supply of food and other commodities.

Now farmers fear that they might lose out on lucrative overseas contracts.

Mitchell Brook of the Citrus Growers Association yesterday said shipping produce to the Middle and Far East markets had become a huge concern to members.

"Non-delivery of citrus products to ports has become a concern as shipping to these markets depended on containerisation. The nondelivery of products is impacting negatively on our members' profits.

"The biggest challenge is to move the products waiting to be loaded into containers. We are concerned because we are losing opportunities," he said.

Brook said there was no indication when break-bulk vessels would start being loaded. He said farmers were faced with "double trouble" if the strike continued because some of the produce waiting to be shipped out of the country perish easily.

Agri-SA deputy president Theo de Jager said he feared that the situation would make South African farmers unreliable to international markets.

"We are in a difficult position here. This is going to cost us a lot as farmers. We will find it difficult to regain trust in the markets should we fail to deliver," he said.

De Jager said China had already indicated as much.

Anton Rube, executive director of the Horticultural Growers Association said the continued strike would be costly.

He said if the strike continued farmers would be forced to breach agreements entered into with international supermarkets.

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