The freight and logistics sector would require intensified investments from both the government and private sector, if growth economic growth were to be achieved, Transport DG Mpumi Mpofu said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the South African Association for Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) congress, she said that industry stakeholders would have to get innovative to overcome the slump in the economy’s growth rate.

Mpofu also noted increasing pressure on road infrastructure, largely as a result of the significant amounts of freight being transported on road, as opposed to rail.

“We are making strides to put most freight on to rail, but we will do this responsibly. We want improvements in efficiency,” she stated.

The DG said that many roads in northern Mpumalanga had been severely eroded, owing to “vigorous Eskom activity and coal haulage” in the area.

Eskom is moving far higher quantities of coal on road in a bid to boost coal stocks at its power stations. This comes as the utility ran into serious supply shortages earlier this year, after stockpile levels dropped to below ten days at some of its plants.

However, the Department of Transport had an agreement with the State-owned utility to rehabilitate and maintain roads in those areas. Mpofu said that Eskom had committed R500-million to the project, but said that it had been stalled during the last six weeks to allow the utility to focus its efforts on increasing its coal stocks.

“We must look for a sustainable and permanent solution to this problem. Spoornet [Transnet Freight Rail] is in discussions regarding a dedicated rail line for that area,” she said.

The State is planning a 69-km railway line between Ermelo, in Mpumalanga, and Eskom’s Majuba power station in KwaZulu-Natal. The plant’s coal stocks are currently being transported by road.

“In the increasingly global economy, freight plays a significant role and only second to the information communication technology sector, the freight sector is globalisation,” she said.

SAAFF chairperson Basil Pietersen also noted that freight forwarding plays an essential role in international trade, and thus often found itself at the mercy of globalisation and economic circumstances.

The logistics spend in the supply chain was said to consitute more than 40% today, which was up from between 8% and 12% a few short years ago.