I have written a bit about South Africa’s agricultural trade success, and the need for expansion of labour-intensive and globally sought-after agricultural products such as horticulture products, and livestock, amongst other products, in the underutilised land in the former homelands, and underperforming land reform farms across the country. But what I have not mentioned is the need for improved and well-functioning ports infrastructure as the growth of South Africa’s agricultural sector is export led.

This morning I received a note from my colleagues in the citrus industry, Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa, who were frustrated about poor performance in the Durban ports, which has somewhat led to delays in shipments.

Not too long ago, I boasted that South Africa’s logistics were comparatively more efficient than most industrialising countries, albeit showing a concerning trend in having regressed from 2016’s ranking. I based this view on the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index which ranked South Africa at number 33 out in 2018 of 160 countries surveyed, down from number 20 in 2016, with Germany still leading the world, as shown in Figure 1 below.

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Figure 1: World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index Rankings (top 34)
Source: World Bank, Agbiz Research


For clarity, the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) reflects perceptions of a country’s logistics system. The subindices that make up the overall LPI are the efficiency of the customs clearance process, quality of trade and transport-related infrastructure, ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, quality of logistics services and competence, ability to track and trace consignments, and the frequency with which shipments reach the consignee within the scheduled time.

While some exporting industries have been experiencing unsatisfactory conditions already last year – as shown by a decline in the LPI ranking and conversation with role players – the country was still broadly in a good position. This is an area we need to improve on, by both ensuring good management and investment in infrastructure.

Overall, shipping ports are to the economy, what air is to human beings. We need them in good working condition!

 Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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