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Africa needs better perishable supply chain costs, services and ‘farm-to-fork’ integration

Cape Town, South Africa: African perishable shippers and logistics experts call for united efforts to tackle high supply chain costs and constraints at first Cool Logistics Africa conference

Logistics costs in Africa are up to four times higher than elsewhere, said Mark Hassenkamp, chief executive of Corvus Investments International, speaking at the first Cool Logistics Conference to be held in the southern hemisphere

Hassenkamp, who is is advisor to Chiquita Brands International on fruit sourcing diversification strategy, said this must change if the African continent wants to compete on global markets and seize the opportunities offered by the agriculture sector, not just in South Africa, but in transition countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Speakers at the Cool Logistics Conference in Cape Town last month which attracted over 150 participants from 15 countries drawn from the global and regional perishable supply chain, agreed that change is now of the essence.

Mark Hassenkamp: Logistics costs in Africa are up to four times higher than elsewhere

Delena Engelbrecht, chief executive, GoReefers said: “We are playing catch up in South Africa and may have no more than seven years left before congestion and delays put the region on a back foot.”

Even in South Africa, logistics costs pitched at 13.5% of GDP remain too high compared with the USA and other main trading partners, said Abrie de Swardt, managing director of Capespan Exports.

Tau Morwe, chief executive of South-Africa-based Transnet National Ports Authority, used the conference platform to outline the R300bn (US$38.7bn) capital investment programme to improve South African ports and global logistical competiveness. He also mentioned that Transnet was ready to engage more proactively with the private sector in the future in order to tackle operational constraints and to become generally more demand-driven.

Critically, Transnet, which holds and controls important landside logistical assets, was also seeking to assuage any fears that issues that brought some of South African ports to a standstill in 2010 will not be repeated this year.

While reaffirming Maersk’s commitment to South Africa as the Southern gateway on the African Continent, David Williams, head of Maersk’s Southern Africa Cluster expressed the hope that some of the ‘occasional shocks’ to the Southern African supply chain will be avoided in the future.

Tau Morwe outlines Transnet’s R300bn capital investment programme

Picking out the refrigerated maritime transport sector, Maersk warned that the problems of equipment shortage will not go away, especially as this market sector is expected to grow and older units have to be withdrawn.

According to the world’s leading refrigerated container operator 44,000 FEU were scrapped in 2011. This year the figure is estimated to reach over 47,000 FEU and could reach nearly 70,000 FEU by 2016, based on a 13 year life span.

Throughout the 2-day conference and 1-day post conference operational workshop, Andy Connell, business unit manager, shipping and logistics, Dole South Africa, reminded attendees that the spirit of logistical innovation lay in the passion for detail, combining a unique creative approach with practical awareness of challenges in ports, shipping and inland terminals across the entire perishable supply chain from producer to retail shelf.

Heralding the entry of the African consumer in the near future, and outlining potential significant trade shifts in the region, major Kenyan producer Hasit Shah, director of Sunripe and vice chairman of Kenya’s Shippers Council – agrred with Hassenkamp’s analysis: “We need to integrate the small holder into the cold chain.”

“Following the success of this first ever Cool Logistics Africa Conference, we will be back in Cape Town next year to continue the dialogue and facilitate sharing of ideas, knowledge and practical solutions to improve Africa’s perishable supply chain performance,” said Alex von Stempel, director, Cool Logistics Resources.