The citrus industry, one of the largest foreign exchange earners for the Eastern Cape, is under threat due to declining road conditions.
The amount of foreign exchange earned by the citrus industry from exports from the Sundays River Valley is approximately R1, 5 billion per year.
A total annual (6 month season) crop is around 400 000 tons of fruit.
However, due to the declining roads I am informed that only 60% or 270 000 tons will be exported this year.
Apart from the threat of thousands of job losses, the inaction by the province to respond to repeated calls for road maintenance is of serious concern.
In order to maintain employment and increase foreign exchange revenues from citrus exports, it is imperative that the roads are properly maintained so as to regularly transport the fruit from the pack houses to the harbour and markets.
Another added loss to our declining citrus tonnages is the bruising of these fruit (which can add a further ten percent loss or R100 million per year) due to the poor quality of roads.
The affected roads are many, but include such routes as the main tarred roads from Sundays River to the Coega- and Port Elizabeth harbours (R335 and R336).
The reason for this decline is the collapse of Rural Road Forums. Instead, consultants and other organisations are raking in huge commissions for sub-contracting consultancy work. The abrogation of the Rural Road Forums has resulted in the majority of roads linking the citrus farms in Sundays River Valley being added in under the authority of the municipality rather than under the jurisdiction of the province.
A municipality has no mandate to service roads outside its jurisdiction.
This is a desperately serious matter.
I have today written to the MEC for Transport, Thandiswa Marawu, asking for her urgent intervention and to immediately prioritise the repair and upgrading of these roads.
Should the MEC fail to act timeously she must be held liable for any future economic- and job losses that her inaction will cause.
MEC, you have been warned.