DURBAN - The South Coast Chamber of Commerce and Industry(SCCCI) has had to learn to roll with the punches brought on by persistent drought that dealt deciding blows on the agriculture and tourism sectors, the Province's mainstay revenue generators.
The Chamber's president Vijay Naidoo said that both the South Coast district and its local economies relied heavily on agriculture and tourism, with gains being slowly being clawed back by major infrastructural developments.
“The past few years have been challenging for our region-particularly as the challenges faced affected the two sectors and therefore the greater local economy. The drought caused a major contraction in the agriculture sector and perversely at the same time the major interruptions in our potable water supply at the height of the holiday season had a drastic impact on the tourism sector,” he said.
According to Naidoo, the South Coast Tourism statistics indicated that water shortages during both the mid-year and end of the 2016-2017 season had a between 30 percent and 50 percent impact in water availability in large areas of the region.
This, he said resulted in tourists cancelling their bookings while others left earlier than scheduled. A slight saving grace was the offset from visitors who did not travel to Cape Town because of the drought challenges experienced there during the year.
While the SCCCI did not have conclusive figures about the impact in agriculture, Naidoo said that the banana and sugar-cane farmers were affected as at some point a local mill had to close down for some period.
The chamber which is affiliated to the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the KwaZulu-Natal Business Chambers Council said that other challenges facing its membership included in the main issues around municipal service delivery and administration as the municipal procurement processes have been under the spotlight.
SCCCI had to be active in encouraging the municipalities to upscale their local procurement efforts to prevent leakage from the district.
The close to 200 member chamber with businesses spanning throughout the various economic sectors said it was pleased with the spread of services, manufacturing and retail enterprises that comprised some of the largest employers.
“The SMME’s have been a focus of our membership drive as we are actively pursuing strategies to broaden our membership to the inland local municipalities as the coastal belt has in the past driven the local economy,” said Naidoo.