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Talking business with Cape Business News – Terry Gale – chairman of Exporters Western Cape

In an exclusive interview, Sue Segar interviews Terry Gale, chairman of Exporters Western Cape. Besides being their chairman for many years, Terry runs a freight forwarding company. He is passionate about the Western Cape, and hugely optimistic about its economic future.

Question: What is Exporters Western Cape and what does it do?

Terry Gale: We are a privately-run organization, which strives to promote the export industry in the Western Cape. We aim to represent the export industry and to be a forum through which concerns may be raised, input provided and knowledge shared. We are funded by members, and have been going for 45 years.

We strive to provide businesses with a local forum to discuss exporting issues; to signpost new and existing exporters with the right advice and information; and to highlight market opportunities.

It is well known that the Western Cape government has an initiative, the Growth for Jobs (G4J) strategy, which has, as a key goal, to build a trillion-rand, jobs rich provincial economy which grows at between four and six percent a year in real terms by 2035. We want the exports industry to be a key part of this strategy, because exports create employment. We support this initiative wholeheartedly.

We bring all stakeholders from Exporters Western Cape together once a month at a function where we have a topical speaker, followed by a presentation. Recent speakers were Andre de Ruiter and Captain Vernal Jones, executive manager of Western Cape Ports for the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA). Our next function will host the economist Dawie Roodt, who will talk about ‘Everything you needed to know about grey-listing but were afraid to ask”.

We keep all our stakeholders in the loop and on top of relevant current affairs pertaining to the industry. We regularly host Premier Alan Winde, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, as well as representatives from Transnet, the port, and from Wesgro.

Q: Who are your members and how many members do you have?

TG: We have two types of membership – corporate membership for companies, and individual membership. We have about 60 corporates and 20 individuals.

Our membership includes exporters, manufacturers, freight forwarders, as well as banking institutions and the marine insurance companies. We have representatives from the SA Association of Freight Forwarders, the Cape Chamber, Transport Port Terminals, Transnet Port Authority and legal companies which have marine departments dealing with claims.

Q: What sort of products are exported from the Western Cape?

TG: Our main products are agriculture, including deciduous fruits, a huge market for export grapes, and citrus. We also export wine, rooibos tea, as well as many manufactured goods, including woodwork, artworks, curios and other tourist items.

Q: What sort of issues do you deal with and try to address as Exporters Western Cape?

TG: Since 2020, we have facilitated meetings with all the stakeholders involved at the port related to exporting – including transporters, the shipping lines, the freight forwarders etc. We meet once a week on Teams to address the challenges at the port.

We also negotiate and communicate with key players on issues relating to exports. We deal with key people, including the president so as to ensure the voice of Exporters Western Cape is heard.

Q: Is the export industry a critical part of the Western Cape economy and why?

TG: Yes, and a key reason for this is that, among other things, it grows the economy and creates much needed employment.

Q: How are the exporters from the Western Cape doing?

TG: Currently, it is our saving grace because of the favourable balance of payments. In the Western Cape, we export more than we import – and this is what we focus on expanding at Exporters Western Cape. The United States market is vitally important, particularly California where we have a trade agreement. The US is our second biggest export market, and our most profitable, so it is vital that we keep our ports functioning efficiently.

More and more companies in the Western Cape are becoming exporters and there is great potential because of the weakness of the rand. Increasingly o

Q: Is there potential to grow Western Cape exports even more?

TG: Yes. The American market is largely untapped; with a population of 340 million people with lots of money to spend! There is great potential for us to grow in particular manufactured items, as we are seeing with our fruit and wine, furniture and doors, and other products.

Q: What is Exporters Western Cape doing to grow the export market?

TG:.One key action I am taking is to ensure that I voice concern about AGOA. I’ve addressed the President and Minister Patel of DTiC stressing the important of AGOA is to our export business. I also engage in public speaking and am very involved in talks relating to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As I am a great believer in Africa, and for Africa to combine resources.

Q: What are some of the big issues in the export industry in the Western Cape at the moment?

TG: Failure to modernise the port has resulted in productivity and capacity constraints. Previous Corruption and mismanagement has meant that the port equipment that should have been upgraded and serviced, was not. For instance, we should have at any given time 30 operational rubber tyre gantries (RTGs) which move the containers within the terminal, but we are lucky if we have 14.

Productivity is an issue. They should be about 35 crane movements per hour (i.e. how many containers you take off a ship) but they only average 20.

These are all issues we address. And because we meet weekly with the port authorities, and get statistics from the port, we can benchmark performance. We can work out why we moved 21 containers in one week, but only 18 in another.

Another big challenge is the weather. In February, we had 248 hours of wind stoppages and we’ve experienced a lot more wind during the winter, which really affects the port.

Q: What is your reaction to the recent announcement on the semi-privatisation of the Durban port? Should Cape Town’s port take a similar route?

TG: We have two terminals in Cape Town – the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) and Cape Town Multi-Purpose Terminal (CTMPT). The advantage of the multi-purpose terminal is that it’s not as affected by wind. But the disadvantage is that it has only three landside cranes, and the vessels that berth there have to use their own equipment, slowing operations. Investment following privatisation could expand operations into three working berths to supplement the main terminal. So, when the main terminal becomes wind bound they can use this one.

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