SOUTH African rail, port and pipeline company Transnet said yesterday the ports of Durban and Richards Bay had reported normal levels of operations over the past two days, with all employees having reported for their shifts, and it was working towards clearing the backlog caused by the unrest last week.
The parastatal’s statement came as the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) yesterday added its voice to that of the citrus industry in calling on the government to assist with fast-tracking imports and exports through Durban.
Transnet’s spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, said the reinstatement of the supply chain on the N2 and N3 had increased activities at the port terminals as trucks continued to call at the ports.
She said the two ports remained open throughout the protests last week, but operations had been significantly impacted by the shutdown of warehouses, cold storage facilities and public transport, as well as limited truck movement.
In Richards Bay, the multi-purpose and dry-bulk terminals handled seven vessels over the weekend. Pier 2 in the Port of Durban serviced four vessels, while Pier 1 continued to work on two berthed vessels.
Transnet said it had been engaging affected customers to ensure that services could resume as quickly as possible, and where required, to deal with bottlenecks.
The rail corridor between Gauteng and Durban has been re-opened, with train services running since Friday. Transnet Freight Rail had run 42 trains since its re-opening, and it would run more trains as efforts to stabilise this key network intensified.
AMIE chief executive Paul Matthew said that, following the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, it was imperative that the country maintained food security.
“We feel that we can avoid a national food crisis if the government assists the import and export sector to accelerate their operations to improve food supply for a constrained market,” said Matthew.
The AMIE said it had called for an urgent meeting with Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza to address concerns around food security.
“We are calling on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition urgently to help us expedite the flow of product through the Durban port, with regard to the paperwork, testing, inspections and container releases,” said Matthew.
“We need to do something urgently to prevent a food crisis in our country. Without the immediate assistance from government, the food manufacturing sector will not be able to produce enough volume to feed South Africa. This production is needed to minimise the effect of the current food shortages in our country. And while we are working on a short-term solution, we need to develop a long-term strategy as well,” he said.
Matthew said the meat industry was operating under huge constraints, with a restrictive regulatory regime and red tape that prevented the rapid and efficient delivery of food.
“The infrastructure that supports this regulatory regime, such as the cold stores and the laboratories, were destroyed during the riots and looting. The mechanisms that control the import and export of food are now almost non-existent. Consequently, we need to come up with another feasible strategy to facilitate the smooth importation of food products into South Africa.”
The import food industry has lost 40 000 tons of cold storage capacity, and significant volumes of raw material had also been lost through last week’s unrest in Durban. The AMIE said this would severely impact food supply and the manufacture of protein products in the short term.