Citrus rail transport review 2013 prospects of rail transport for citrus exports
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Citrus rail transport review 2013 prospects of rail transport for citrus exports

CITRUS RAIL TRANSPORT REVIEW 2013Prospects of Rail Transport for Citrus Exports

Statement: the northern citrus production regions of KwaZulu Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Zimbabwe produce 60% of Southern Africa’s citrus exports, 95% of which is transported to Durban by road transportation – leading to severe congestion and delays. Rail transportation from Limpopo province is paramount in addressing this...

1 of 4 Strategic Logistics and Infrastructure Projects as Proposed by:


From the onset of the 2005 citrus season, rail transportation of citrus production for export has declined dramatically. Where some 80% of citrus was transported to port by rail, in 2013 less than 5% of citrus was transported to Durban (by the transportation of reefer containers to Durban port stacks). Annually some 800,000 pallets of citrus are produced in the northern regions, 95% of which is transported by some 35,000 road vehicle trips into the Durban port. In peak season it has been ascertained that on average some 350 road vehicles transport citrus into Durban each day. At present there is no thorough management or coordination of vehicle arrivals into Durban and therefore bottlenecks and congestion frequently occur. The main reasons for the declined use of rail are seen to be as follows :

  • An amendment to the regulatory framework that prohibited road transportation,

  • Decreased efficiency and reliability of the general freight rail network,

  • Continuous and increased pilferage of citrus during rail transportation,

  • The advent of containerization and the stacking of ‘High Cube’ pallets by producers, in which rail transportation could not accommodate,

  • The differential in road transport and rail transport pricing leading to road transport gaining an advantage in price versus reliability,

  • The fragmentation of the export Supply Chain, deregulation led to the dissemination of a centrally coordinated Supply Chain,

  • The development of cold storage facilities in Durban not equipped with rail sidings,

  • The conventional ‘O’ type rail wagon stocks depleted to the point of no return.

Citrus rail transport review 2013 the way of the future


Statement: the future of citrus rail lies firmly in the development of inland hubs in Limpopo for the purpose of consolidating citrus to be packed in reefer containers; which are then transported to the respective port of choice for export...

Durban and maputo export volume by mode
Durban and Maputo Export Volume by Mode

Containerization of citrus in Durban presents an opportunity for rail

Regional container loading ratio port vs inland
Regional Container Loading Ratio Port vs. Inland

Inland containerization in the EC and WC regions has progressed


Hinged on rail transport

Limpopo zimbabwe annual citrus production
Limpopo & Zimbabwe Annual Citrus Production

Weekly production of citrus from the Limpopo and Zimbabwe regions is the equivalent of >1,500 FEU containers worth.......

Would it not then be possible and practical to implement 6 reefer train trips per week transporting 240 citrus containers from Limpopo.......

(Week 18 – 38 = 4,800 FEU p.annum)

Includes: Limpopo and Zimbabwe regions

Proposed rail transport offering in limpopo
Proposed Rail Transport Offering in Limpopo

  • The development of inland ambient and/or cold storage infrastructure,

    • Letsitele: for the accumulation of citrus from Letsitele and Hoedspruit,

    • Polokwane: for the accumulation of citrus from northern Limpopo and Zimbabwe,

    • Marble Hall: for the accumulation of citrus from Marble Hall, Groblersdal and Zebediela.

  • Infrastructure PPECB approved, potential forced air cooling (steri), DAFF inspection facilities and container bays,

  • The implementation of rail yards aligned with inland depots, complete with reach stacker or gantry crane and sufficient reefer plug-in capacity,

    • Polokwane central rail yard transferring containers to and from the Polokwane and Letsitele facilities,

    • Pretoria (Pretcon) central rail head transferring containers to and from the Marble Hall facility.

  • The implementation of 3 fully equipped reefer train sets,

    • The number of trains sets to be in accordance with the demand,

    • Train sets to accommodate up to 40 live FEU reefer units.

  • Introduction of the Cape Corridor as an inclusion of the Natal Corridor.

Strategic partnerships to achieve synergies
Strategic Partnerships to Achieve Synergies

Synergy = The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects

  • Hardware

  • Operations

  • Planning

  • Implementation

  • Operations

  • Planning

  • Coordination

Rail and Logistics Partners

  • Facilitation Process

  • Support

  • Mediation

  • Facilitation Process

  • Funding

  • Implementation

Expanding the dole lcd concept
Expanding the Dole LCD Concept

Dole SA implemented a Container Depot at the Letsitele station in 2010. This facilities primary purpose is to accumulate citrus from multiple producers for the purpose of packing containers which are transported to the port of choice by rail. The efficiency and effectiveness of this facility should be expanded for the greater Limpopo and Zimbabwe regions....

Factors to be considered
Factors to be Considered

  • Durban port cold stores are over utilized creating severe bottlenecks, congestion and inefficiency leading to losses – citrus reefer container trains are essential for the northern region,

  • Logistics costs are escalating at an alarming rate, rail transporting of reefer containers can potentially decrease costs,

  • The future of citrus rail transport is hinged on a strategic and sustainable partnership between Transnet Freight Rail, the Limpopo Provincial Government (LEDET), CGA and rail logistics partners,

  • There is a dire need to lobby Transnet SOC to issue a subsidy for citrus rail transportation,

  • Rail utilization on the Natal Corridor (Natcor) line would limit the effectiveness of citrus reefer container trains directed to Durban Pier 1 and 2. Citrus reefer trains should preferably be transferred to the Cape Corridor (Capecor) line to Cape Town CT,

  • The TFR Belcon facility in Belville, Cape Town would be very complimentary to the citrus reefer container trains,

  • Cape Town port would offer better lead time to Northern Europe, UK, Mediterranean and Russian markets. Determined to potentially offer a 7 day advantage,

  • In discussion with Maersk Lines, Safmarine and MSC (as the largest reefer carriers), they have issued full support for the implementation of reefer trains.

Citrus rail transport review 2013 prospects of rail transport for citrus exports1

CITRUS RAIL TRANSPORT REVIEW 2013Prospects of Rail Transport for Citrus Exports

The transportation of citrus reefer containers by rail potentially offers growers the opportunity to - improve logistics costs, improve cold chain integrity, increase efficiency and reduce transit time to key citrus markets...

Enabling a more sustainable, efficient and effective Citrus Supply Chain through the development and implementation of strategic projects...

See also – Southern African Citrus Rail Status 2011 Brochure (CGA)