Cindy Preller and Thulani Gqirana
THE citrus industry is losing up to R150-million a year from damaged fruit due to the shocking state of the Addo Road.
And the authorities are just passing the buck on who is responsible for fixing it.
Sundays River Business Chamber chairman Flippie Ehlers said about 12500 trucks carrying 20 million cartons of fruit a year travelled on the Addo Road, which had potholes the size of small citrus trees in some places.
In addition, 600 Bay workers travelled on this “unsafe” road to work in the valley.
“With the road being so badly damaged for so long, the citrus industry has losses of about R150million per year,” Ehlers said.
“When overseas customers open the boxes and find the fruit, or even the labelling or boxes, to be damaged, they immediately send them back at cost. The citrus industry is the second biggest contributor to the [Eastern Cape] economy, after the motor industry, and the sorry state of the road has a massive impact on it.”
Sundays River Citrus Company managing director Ken Nieuwenhuizen said there was no doubt the bad condition of the road, coupled with heavy loads, caused serious damage to the fruit exported to an already fickle customer base, especially in Europe.
The citrus export season for the year starts at the end of March.
The Sundays River Business Chamber has taken up the issue of the road with local authorities.
Ehlers said the valley’s tourism industry was also suffering, with many guesthouses reporting that some tourists had turned around when they saw the bad road.
Apart from the 1600-bed tourism industry in the valley, the Addo Elephant National Park has also been affected. SANParks communications manager Fayroush Ludick said SANParks management had taken up the issue several times with the authorities.
“We have lots of complaints from visitors, especially those who travel with caravans or trailers. They have no other choice but to travel slowly,” Ludick said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said the organisation was also lobbying to get the road fixed.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Kevin Hustler said this crucial link needed urgent attention.
While Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the Addo Road was not the municipality’s responsibility, Transport MEC Thandiswa Marawu said on Friday municipalities decided which roads to prioritise.
She said she would push this week for the repair to be added to the municipality’s budget list.