South Africa’s urgent need for imported grain is likely to see trucks lumbering through West Bank streets and congesting the area for many months as they line up waiting to get into the East London harbour.
Once inside, they will be loaded with Mexican maize shipped in to the grain terminal. Resident Linda-Marie van der Merwe said one company had five or more trucks hogging both sides of a road and trucks had even parked across an entrance.
Transnet Port Terminals Eastern Cape spokeswoman Sindie Ndwalaza said they were trying to find new parking space inside the port for the trucks. But she said the imports were good for the Eastern Cape’s economy and keeping people in jobs.
Ndwalaza, after consulting East London terminal manager Wandisa Vazi, said: “We are constantly exploring ways to alleviate traffic congestion during peak period in consultation with our key stakeholders and customers, that is, creating additional staging areas within the port.”
The drought has seen production of white and yellow maize in South Africa down this year by 28%, from nine million tons to 7.1 million tons, meaning the country must import almost two million tons, according to Oxfam.
So far, South Africa has only imported 155 581 tons of white maize and has 845 000 tons to go to reach its predicted need of a million tons.
This was little more than 15% of the target but there was some time to go, SA Grain Information Service general manager Nico Hawkins said. “Usually, we don’t import white maize at all.” Nelson Mandela Bay has imported 37 000 tons of yellow maize since May.
Hawkins said the picture for yellow maize, which is used for animal consumption, was even potentially busier, with only 275 042 tons imported out of a predicted 2.2 million tons required by May.
He said infrastructure in getting imports from harbours into the country was a problem, although East London was “not so bad”.
So far in the agricultural marketing year, which runs from May to May, East London had imported 30 000 tons of white maize destined for the Eastern Cape.
Hawkins said South Africa’s domestic maize harvest was almost finished, meaning the present predictions of how much of the staple food would have to be imported were almost finalised.
Farmers will plant again in October but only harvest in May.