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The South African coatings sector is facing "immensely turbulent times” in the wake of the pandemic, says Sanjeev Bhatt, newly-elected Chairperson of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA).
Bhatt, who is the founder and MD of Krugersdorp resin supplier, Synthetic Polymers, says local problems such as Eskom energy constraints, electricity tariffs, and the cost of labour have compounded already existing issues of high freight rates and extended shipping and logistical delays. "Freight tariffs have soared by almost 300% and frequencies between various important ports are now operating 50% lower than before the pandemic. All facets of manufacturing locally are becoming very challenging and government policies are not assisting to alleviate the pressure,” Bhatt commented.
He says the coatings sector now, as never before, has to show a united front for survival. "It is very difficult for individual companies to lobby with government stakeholders on their own. Working in isolation does not help. The only way we could achieve our goals is being collective through the auspices of an industry body such as SAPMA. As an association more than 80 years old, SAPMA has experience in lobbying government to institute policies conducive to the coatings sector locally. The African Free Trade Agreement is a classic example: sure, it’s good to open free trade across the African continent – but are the playing fields even when we compare South Africa to other big economies in Africa, such as Egypt and Nigeria? To ensure fair trading conditions is an important facet of SAPMA’s role to lead the industry and maintain a healthy manufacturing base.”
Bhatt feels it is essential for SAPMA to increase membership with more active participation of all members as core focus. "Moreover, SAPMA should also widen membership to include many more paint retailers and painting contractors. It is also important to try and revive the training of young chemists and ensure true empowerment and transfer of skills. An organisation is only as good as its members. With unity and increased involvement by all members, SAPMA’s future is assured and membership will become even more meaningful,” he added.
SAPMA elected Bobby Bhugwandin and Stephen Reinecke as Co Vice Chairpersons for the year ahead. Bhugwandin is Supply Chain Director for Kansai Plascon, and Reinecke, founder and Director of Promac Paints.