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South African ports contain capacity to handle corn imports

South African ports contain capacity to handle corn imports

PRETORIA: Transnet SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned ports and rail operator, says the local port system can handle all the country’s estimated corn-import needs as it draws up plans to meet demand amid the worst drought in more than a century.

South Africa, which is usually a net exporter of corn, will probably need to import 5 million to 6 million metric tons of the commodity, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana told reporters Jan. 15. The country’s ports can handle those quantities and Transnet has rail capacity to haul more than 6.6 million tons of corn, spokesman Mboniso Sigonyela said in an e-mailed response to questions on Wednesday.

“Including private sector operators, we can handle between 5-6 million tons through our port system,” he said.

South Africa is importing corn as the worst drought since 1904 may result in the smallest area being planted with the grain since 2011. White corn for delivery in July rose to a record 5,065 rand a ton on the South African Futures Exchange on Jan. 19, the highest level since trading started on the bourse in August 1996.

Transnet has grain-handling facilities at the ports of Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London and recently started using capacity at Richards Bay, he said. The company is also able to convert some facilities that are usually used for exports to accommodate increased import volumes, and is returning about 2,000 wagons to operation to bolster rail capacity.

“We are also adapting and improving our handling methods, focusing on efficiencies as well as storage facilities in cooperation with industry,” Sigonyela said. “For the volumes to be realized, there must be sufficient storage and handling facilities inland to ensure trains are turned around optimally.”