South Africa’s berry industry fears an open-ended strike by workers at state ports operator Transnet may threaten 30,000 jobs in the sector and put a dent in its export revenue of R3 billion, Business Insider reports.
A third of South Africa’s berry producers who are currently unprofitable now hang in the balance due to the strike, according to the article.
Industry association BerriesZA has written to ministers Thoko Didiza, Ebrahim Patel and Transnet executives, requesting urgent intervention in the strike. But on Thursday, the ports operator declared force majeure, citing that the strike would profoundly impact economic activities across all sectors.
Part of its plea is that contingency plans are implemented to ensure that berries move through the ports.
“The open-ended strike has occurred during the peak of the berry export season, which means even a single day of ports not operating will have a significant knock-on effect on the entire berry value chain putting 30,000 livelihoods who depend on the industry at risk as well as millions of rand in export revenue,” Justin Mudge chairperson of BerriesZA said in a statement on Friday.
The local harvesting season, dominated by blueberries, usually commences in mid-September, with peak exports occurring from October through November.
In its 2021-22 season, the berry industry exported more than 15,000 tons of fruit, primarily to the countries in the European Union and the UK. It expects to contribute R3 billion (US$165 million) in export revenue to the local economy for the current season
Workers at Transnet embarked on a strike following failed wage negotiations after the state-owned rail, port and pipeline entity rejected a 12% and 13.5% increase demanded by the United National Transport Union (Untu) and the South African Transport Allied Workers Union (Satawu), respectively, Business Insider reports.
Road Freight Association CEO Gavin Kelly said that as far as he was aware “there was no movement of trade” at the ports, News 24 reports.
Anonymous port users were quoted in industry news site Freight News on Friday as saying that “nothing was moving” at the ports.
Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said on Monday while there were labour challenges, the ports were made up of multiple terminals with various owners.
“There are terminals that are owned by Transnet, and terminals that are owned by private sector operators. The current strike is between Transnet and its unions. This does not include private sector-run terminals.