South African raisin exporters are continuing to ship their raisins around the world despite delays and logistical challenges caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
During the country’s lockdown period, South Africa’s raisins are categorised as part of the essential food category. The industry will therefore remain open, on a reduced scale, to continue the agricultural value chain for local and export food distribution.
Gog van der Colff, managing director of Carpe Diem, said: “Our trucking, courier and warehousing companies have been uncertain as to whether they could maintain operations post lockdown.
“So far – thanks to our relationship with the supply chain – we’ve been able to keep the system ticking along. It will take hard work and perseverance, but I’m confident we will continue delivering to the port.”
Van der Colff added that their biggest concern was product leaving the country. All bulk terminals were closed on 1 April, Durban port is now closed and the terminal capacity at Koega and Cape Town ports is down to between 35 and 45 per cent.
“The bottom line is that we are still able to ship. Delays are manageable, but the industry cannot afford for the product not to get on to vessels,” he said.
Staff shortages are another challenge for the industry at the moment, with many processors packing only half their usual daily volumes.
Peter Kuilman, director of Red Sun Raisins, said: “Unfortunately our production is slower due to the fewer workers we have in our factory over this lockdown period, which means we’re packing one and a half – two loads per day.
“However, we are planning a new schedule and expect to be operating our usual three to four loads per day from 17 April. We are also thankful that the laboratories will remain open during lockdown, to assist us with our quality control.”
Ferdie Botha, chief executive of Raisins South Africa, commented: “Our exemption is conducted under the strictest additional hygiene requirements. Communication has been circulated to all raisin packers/exporters and growers, placing emphasis on our industry responsibility to implement extraordinary measures to safeguard human life.”
In light of the current pandemic, Raisins South Africa has now incorporated consumer-focused activity within the UK promotional campaign plan. Communications aim to educate consumers on the many health benefits raisins provide, as well as the quality and versatility of product from South Africa.
The point that raisins are a cost-effective way to eat healthily, due to their long shelf life, will also be emphasised during this international lockdown period.