ONE of Zimbabwe’s biggest horticultural players says it has been hit by disruptions to logistical operations stemming from Covid–19 induced policy shifts.
The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Ariston Holdings Limited, said this week container shortages and delays reported by firms worldwide were among the biggest hurdles to the business in the past year.
The crisis has grounded many corporations.
But with fresh outbreaks recently reported at ports in countries like China – the biggest suppliers of raw materials – the world faces potentially more damaging disruptions as governments deny international freightliners from berthing on their ports.
In the past year, drivers were unable to haul cargo from factories to ships destined to regions like Africa, while output from the region found it difficult to land at destinations in time.
In a trading update for the first quarter ended December 31, 2021, Ariston said effects of Covid-19 on supply chains extended beyond advanced economies.
“The effect of the pandemic on the group has mainly been felt in the constraints being encountered by shipping lines such as shortage of shipping containers for export product as well as for importation of materials required by the group, shipping delays for both exports and imports and any lockdowns legislated globally slows down economic activity and demand for products,” company secretary Acquiline Chinamo said.
“Locally, the group has largely been unaffected by the pandemic as measures implemented to protect staff members have continued to be strictly monitored and adhered to,” Chinamo added.
Logistics industry statistics confirm the container shortages, which have triggered spiralling shipping costs.
Transporting a container full from China to Europe, for instance, cost companies about US$4 000 before the pandemic.
But costs have increased to US$20 000.
Shortages of pallets and blockages at ports mean companies won’t be certain if their shipments would arrive in time if the current wave mutates into a bigger crisis.
Ariston also said it invested fresh funding into developing a technology-driven business and skirting a long-running labour crisis in its estates.
The firm has not been spared by biting farm labour shortages that have rocked the country in the past decade.
It said the automation drive was boosted last year by a deal that unlocked funding to bolster mechanisation.
Ariston pocketed US$2 million after selling 50% of its shareholding in Claremont Orchards Holdings late last year.
The transaction gave Ariston financial muscle to clear up space to develop new macadamia nuts orchard in Chipinge and Chimanimani, while improving existing operations, according to a statement released last month.
“During the first quarter, the group received proceeds from the disposal of 50% of its shareholding in Claremont Orchards Holdings (Private) Limited to Tuinbouw Zonder Grenzen BV.
The proceeds from the transaction were used to develop new as well as improve established macadamia orchards, expand macadamia drying facilities and purchase equipment for automation of some processes to counteract the effects of labour shortage in Chipinge,” Chinamo said.
The holding company reported a 19% decrease in revenue during the review period.