• July 22, 2020

Lockdown, Stock, Covid-19 & the Port of Cape Town

Posted By: Harvest Chemicals

In my last post I said of all the segments of the South African economy, agriculture was perhaps the happiest place to be.  I expected growth and job creation and this was borne out by the 27% growth in agriculture in the first quarter.

Stock ordered, mainly from China, was arriving, albeit a bit late.  To factor this in we just ordered a month in advance.  Then came the lockdown of 27 March 2020

Agriculture was rightly spared as a nation had to be fed. 

Lockdown was required to train our population about masks, hand washing and distancing, and to give our ill prepared health service breathing space to remedy.  This was easily achieved in 3 weeks and no need existed to be still locked down at 114 days.  This resulted in the devastation to the economy, the loss of jobs and the soon to be evident, starvation.

Although agriculture remained open, the decimation of the economy destroyed a number of farmer’s markets.  Examples of this are the hospitality industry where restaurants countrywide were closed.  Farmers no longer had this avenue for meat, poultry, vegetables and particularly potatoes for chips. 

I, having been less than sympathetic to our Government’s handling of the Corona pandemic but in context, the Western Cape has been hard hit by the virus, so much so that Cape Town port is not running a night shift and capacity is 40%. 

The major effect of this is exporters of Western Cape agricultural produce are having difficulty exporting via Cape Town harbour due to capacity constraints.  The last few months have been peak season for the export of citrus, pome fruit, stone fruit and wine when the Government allows it.  Goods have been trucked to other ports like Port Elizabeth at great cost.  Not all fruit could be trucked resulting in fruit losses.

Other problematic exports are perishables such as blueberries of which two-thirds are exported, amounting to 12,000 tons.  Perishable products need to be transported quickly and delays may allow this year’s harvest to perish before it reaches international consumers.

This was not the only problem with the dysfunctional Cape Town port.  Ships lay on anchor for up to 18 days at great cost to the shipping companies.  A large number of ship captains decided the waiting costs were too severe and simply turned their ships around.  There are now massive shortages in some critical chemicals like Cyanamide.

Harvest Chemicals was not spared.  Our Propyzamide container sped up the West Coast of Africa and ended up in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Our Pyraclostrobin container was last seen heading for Malaysia!  These well-travelled goods are due back in Cape Town in August, two months later than scheduled.

  • In the case of Propyzamide , too late for the canola season, and
  • Pyraclostrobin will miss the fungicidal wheat season completely.
    • Fortunately there is a citrus market later in the year.

In summary there has been some degree of devastation and mayhem.

  • Some brought about by poor Governmental decision making, and
  • Some by the virus itself.

Both of these have had an effect on agriculture.

 Trevor Wimbush 

CEO Harvest Chemicals 

Hon BSc (Chemistry)

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