Wheels in motion to roll out fresh stocks for supermarket shelves
JOHANNESBURG - Major decisions in the efficient use of South Africa's haulage, ports and rail infrastructure for efficient restocking of supermarket shelves are expected to be rolled out today.
Minister of Tran sport Fikile Mbalula is expected to elaborate on the sector lockdown plans as stakeholders reassure that the government has taken them on board to contribute to the unfolding coronavirus outbreak.
This as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proclamation of a 21-day lockdown beginning midnight tomorrow sent consumers into a fresh frenzy of stockpiling on grocery and other essentials, partly in fear of running short during the lockdown despite repeated assurances from the government that food production and transportation would continue unhindered.
AgriSA executive director Omri van Zyl said yesterday that the organisation was part of the technical task team looking into the impact of the Coronavirus and would make its contributions with regard to the supply side efficiency.
“We will particularly focus on the delivery of food to the rural areas. We are glad that the police and army are also involved. Maybe that can help with the remote aspects,” Van Zyl said.
He said AgriSA and other stakeholders were in the thick of the interventions, including the fund announced by the president to provide relief to farmers and others in the production process.
“It is with the access to ports and rail that the government will have to play its role, all other systems continue to operate as normal,” he said.
Labour organisation the United National Transport Union (Untu), which has been especially vigilant and critical of the state of preparedness in the transport and logistics sector, assured that it was part of the support system.
The executive council members and full-time trade union representatives of Untu said it had a meeting with the management of the ports yesterday morning to discuss the gist of these matters.
“As a union we find ourselves in a unique situation that we could not prepare for and for which we don't have any guidelines,” said Sonja Carstens, Untu's deputy general secretary - communication and media liaison.
Agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo said this week that the readiness of the domestic food supply chains would perhaps be the ones to be tested in the coming weeks and months if panic-buying arising from fears of the spread of Covid-19 were to peak to levels seen in mid-March in the UK and US, among other countries.
He said nearly half the value of what the country produces was exported and might bear the brunt as Asia and Europe, which accounted for half of the $10 billion (R177.15bn) of South Africa’s agricultural exports in 2019, were the hardest hit areas by Covid-19 thus far.