SA truck strike is hitting fresh produce retailers hard
Supermarket fresh produce shelves look set to be bare within the next few days as negotiations between South Africa’s striking truck drivers and employers’ organizations failed to reach a deal yesterday.
South African Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) acting national media officer Vincent Masoga, confirmed talks had broken down.
He said employers were not prepared “to negotiate” on the union’s demand for a 12% salary increase this year. Satawu has rejected the employers’ offer of an 18% wage rise over the next two years.
The strike by 20,000 drivers is about to enter its third week with the effects beginning to bite with empty petrol stations and supermarkets with hardly any fruit or vegetables.
Neighbouring Namibia is also feeling the effects of industrial action as it imports 95% of its fruit from South Africa.
Namibian fresh produce retailer Fruit & Veg’s general manager Leon Nel, said the country imports ZAR180 million (US$21 million) worth fresh produce from South Africa.
“I think shelves will be empty within the next five to seven days. At the moment there are a few things we can buy or find at the moment.
However, he said fresh produce prices had increased by more than 100% over the last few weeks.
“I have just spoken to a potato farmer who estimates that a large bag of potatoes (10 kilograms) is now ZAR48 (US$5.6) compared with ZAR28 (US$3.3) two weeks ago. There is nothing coming into the Johannesburg market.”
Citrus producers claim they have been relatively unaffected by the strike which has come at the tale end of their exporting season.
Sunday Rivers Citrus Company marketing director Hannes de Waal said packing for export would finish next week.
“We are not too badly affected due to the fact the season is closing. However, if it continues for longer it will be quite problematic. They are bringing us close to standstill.”
He added there had been some outbreaks of violence with two trucks taking fruit out of Sunday Rivers Valley burnt out and another truck stolen.
A Capespan executive who preferred not to be named agreed if the strike had occurred two months earlier the effects would have been “calamitous”.
Fruit producers are hoping the strike will end before grape exports start at the beginning of next month.
Nel said he expected the South African government would step in to try and resolve the strike within the next few days.
Masoga stressed union members were behaving correctly and any outbreaks of violence were unrelated to Satawu.