South African Fruit Rots, Fuel Pumps Run Dry as Truckers Strike

A two-week strike by more than 20,000 truck drivers in South Africa has left fuel pumps dry and fruit rotting at the nation’s largest fresh produce market.

A third of gasoline stations in Gauteng province, South Africa’s commercial hub that consumes about 60 percent of all fuel, have run out of at least one of three products, MC Lamprecht, chairman of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association, said in a telephone interview from Johannesburg today. A shortage of fruit trucked from the southwestern region has boosted prices at the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market, said Paul Botha, a market agent.

Truck drivers went on strike on Sept. 24 demanding a 12 percent annual wage increase over the next two years, while employers are offering 18 percent over the full period.

The price of an 18-kilogram carton of apples, which is produced 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) away, has jumped 27 percent to 140 rand ($16.26) at the Johannesburg market since the strike started, Botha said.

“There is no fruit coming in and no fruit leaving the market,” Linda Engelbrecht, a market agent at the JFPM, said by phone. “The farmers are taking losses because no one is taking the fruit away.”

Employers and striking workers are due to meet in the labor court today, Vincent Masoga, spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, said by phone from Johannesburg.

There are no talks scheduled between the Road Freight Employers’ Association and Satawu, Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht, spokesman for the truck owners, said by phone from Johannesburg.

The association represents 600 companies that employ 60 percent of the workers affected by the wage agreement.

Employers and workers were ready to broker a deal on Oct. 3 when the union “reneged” on the agreement, she said.

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