COMMUNICATION, collaboration, agility, and putting in long working hours have been some of the reasons why exporters in the Eastern Cape managed to continue operations despite the effects of Covid-19 on the local economy.
With particularly the harbours across the globe being hard-hit by various forms of lockdown in most countries, exporters in the Eastern Cape had to work hard at withstanding and overcoming the logistical challenges of getting product to market over the past few months.
Discussing the challenges and successes experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic by exporters in the province, were various panellists invited by Exporters Eastern Cape for a virtual panel discussion hosted on Thursday, 15 October and facilitated by Jane Stevenson, Vice-Chair of Exporters Eastern Cape and Managing Director of Magnetic Minds.
San Miguel Production Manager: Packing & Planning, Jason Meyer, said since citrus was a perishable good, timing became even more critical to provide products to specific markets during the lockdown period, which was characterised by huge logistical delays.
Despite the challenges, San Miguel had a record year in terms of total export volumes with well over 80 000 tons of citrus exported to the Northern hemisphere.
“Initially we had a big scare when the lockdown was announced. However, we were blessed with being able to operate under the restrictions, being part of the essential services, and markets being very strong in accepting citrus products with an increased demand for Vitamin C. We experienced many disruptions through the full value chain but all in all there were more positives than negatives,” said Meyer.
This included partnering with other role-players in the Eastern Cape citrus industry with the aim to support one another to ensure the success of the citrus production and exports from the province.
Transnet National Ports Authority Senior Manager: Port Operations at the Port of Port Elizabeth, Captain Faisal Sultan, said despite the immense knock-on effect of the logistical challenges, one of the successes during this time was becoming more connected with the citrus export role-players by having a dedicated WhatsApp group.
“This worked very well from a communications perspective. Some of the challenges we experienced were balancing the well-being of our staff with providing 24-hour service to our customers, as well as ensuring the safety of the crew on the incoming vessels to the port.
“The Port of Port Elizabeth was the first to implement Covid-19 health declarations, and other SOPs,” said Sultan.
Isuzu Motors South Africa Departmental Executive for Supply Chain Management and Quality, Tony Pienaar, said staff well-being was also a priority for Isuzu.
“As the risk levels decreased and we went back to full production, the production staff were supported by Isuzu’s medical facility and issued with PPE. It remains important for us to keep the company culture intact, as we find different ways of doing things,” said Pienaar.
Despite the massive downturn in the automotive industry because of the effects of Covid-19, Isuzu registered its highest market share percentage for August in the past
The Isuzu D-Max bakkie market share topped 17.3% and was ranked as the second-best seller in South Africa for May, June and August.
“As we restart the industry, we are seeing normality coming back, markets recovering to a certain extent as they get out of various levels of lockdown.
It is important to adapt and change to these conditions,” said Pienaar.
Expeditors International National Sales Manager Lauren Goddard said there was an estimated drop in trade of between 13-22% for the 3rd and 4th quarters predicted.
“Keep in mind that the largest drop we experienced was in the recession of 2008 with a 5% drop in trade. We have seen a major impact on companies, especially those that were financially at risk already. However, healthcare trade has increased, especially with vaccines expected to be transported,” said Goddard.
She advised exporters to plan for increased rates and to invest in cloud-based technology and cybersecurity.
IMAGE: Participating in Exporters EC’s recent panel discussion were from left (top): Expeditors International National Sales Manager Lauren Goddard; San Miguel Production Manager: Packing & Planning, Jason Meyer; Isuzu Motors South Africa Departmental Executive for Supply Chain Management and Quality, Tony Pienaar; and below (from left) Exporters EC Vice-Chair Jane Stevenson; and Transnet National Ports Authority Senior Manager: Port Operations at the Port of Port Elizabeth, Captain Faisal Sultan.