Strike in South Africa: over or not?
Blueberry sector eyeing exports from Namibia and Mozambique
The situation in South African ports, which have been on strike for two weeks, will remain unchanged for now. The industry had expected the strike to last at least a week from the start and had plans in place to limit losses, although some manufacturers were forced to admit that some containers could not be berthed.
There are tens of thousands of import containers at the container terminal in Durban, and when the strike is officially over, a significant number of import containers will need to be cleared, which could take several weeks.
The fruit sector is eyeing Walvis Bay, Namibia, and a new fruit terminal in Maputo is also one option. There are no cooling units at any of the terminals, but for a container with a generator set, this is not a problem.
Some blueberry exporters were about to embark on this path, but the news of the first breakthrough in the negotiations made them wait.
Blueberry growers have had to continue picking up and storing pallets that should already be on the ship in cold stores where storage costs are skyrocketing.
Meetings between Transnet and the fruit sector will continue to update the latter on the status of negotiations.
The union, which first went on strike after wage talks stalled for months, has accepted the latest wage offer, while a second union appears to be holding on.
The news that one union had accepted a wage offer was received with great relief by the chairman of BerriesZA.
“However, I must emphasize that we are far from being out of the woods and that the next 10-14 days are absolutely necessary to normalize our exports. as it is critical to the sustainability of these industries,” said Justin Mudge.
“No Light Spot”
South Africa’s absence from Europe gives more space to Peru, where blueberry stocks outnumber those of South Africa. “There is no bright spot,” notes the manager of the blueberry sector.
Blueberry prices will come under pressure and some growers will have to stop after two difficult years if they don’t get good payouts this season.
Last year, the blueberry season was also accompanied by logistical problems; Ironically, the Cape Town Container Terminal now has enough cranes to service three berths, but no people to operate them.
The sector is very concerned about the loss of jobs, which could cause another difficult season for some blueberry growers.
Unforeseen quantities in cold stores reduce service time
Cold stores, where blueberries were packed for ships that couldn’t load, now have 75% fewer pallets than last year.
“Fortunately, it’s the end of the citrus season and we didn’t have a lot,” says Western Cape’s cold store manager. “If this had happened three or four weeks ago, we would have been in serious trouble. Luckily, we had the capacity to handle so many blueberries.”
This is usually the only quiet month of the year in this refrigerator before the start of the grape harvest. “My staff is due to go on vacation this month and we are doing a major overhaul. The strike has resulted in warehouses full of fruit. Now there is no time for training and vacations. very intense to get everything ready for the grape season. If the strike ends now and we can resume loading, we can catch up.”