Charles Hughes SA has been locked out or is in danger of being locked out of several international export markets for apples, grapes and pears thanks partly to bureaucratic ineptitude.
So says Charles Hughes, MD of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, SA's biggest producer of apples and pears. According to Hughes, Thailand stopped accepting SA's apple and grape exports in January 2008 after the SA government failed to update phytosanitary information on the sector timeously. "This was government inefficiency at its best and has cost SA at least R400m in lost export revenue," he says.
Since then, all SA's efforts to regain access for apples and grapes, including lodging a "trade concern" at the World Trade Organisation last October, have failed to pay off.
SA has also been unable to finalise access for apples to the vast Chinese market, despite Chinese approval of our production and phytosanitary certification processes. Apple producers from New Zealand, Chile, France, Belgium and North America all export to China.
Hughes blames SA's lack of progress on "bureaucratic inertia". The department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries (DAFF) says talks are "at an advanced stage" and, after technical discussions in Beijing last month, China has undertaken to provide a written response to SA's request for access.
Part of the problem is that 16 posts at director level and above in the DAFF are vacant or have acting incumbents, including posts central to securing SA's export access. The director-general, Langa Zita, has just been suspended for administrative reasons. DAFF says most of its vacant posts have been advertised and are being filled or rationalised.
In Indonesia, SA has failed to obtain the same dispensation as New Zealand, Australia, Chile and the US which allows them to land fruit at the main port of Jakarta. SA has to use a secondary port which lacks adequate infrastructure.
A lock-out is also looming in India, which wants imported fruit to be treated with methyl bromide. This may end up in a global WTO dispute since exporters say the process will kill the fruit.
DAFF says it "continues to engage with Thailand, Indonesia, India and China as well as many other trading partners in a continuing quest to open new markets for SA products and ensure continued trade ... 'Lock-outs' averted in this way seldom, if ever, reach the press."
Source: Financial Mail