The year 2023 has not been the easiest year for South African farmers but agriculture leaders have predicted different opportunities to help improve farming conditions for farmers next year. Many have called on the government to implement the Agro-energy Fund to help farmers and agro-processors with power cuts.
While the country has its fair share of challenges, there are opportunities galore for South Africa’s agriculture which calls for the implementation of critical policies to make it shine.
There is no political will
Dewald Olivier, chief executive of the Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS), said the biggest risk that the industry has is weak leadership that is not taking a stand and not standing up and deciding on what needs to be done.
According to Olivier, plans are set in place, like the Agricultural and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP), and the meat industry has spent about four years speaking about them, but it is up to the incoming political leadership to implement these plans.
“Not making a decision is also a decision because we have been wasting over 20 years in my industry. We are bleeding as an industry because as leadership we are not taking the necessary steps.
“We need to as leaders robustly start with implementation on the ground. If we do not do that then it is a massive risk for my industry and agriculture. The time for talking is done, the time for implementation has come,” said Olivier.
What matters more to him for 2024, he added, is ensuring that the agriculture industry serves South Africa, and it has the responsibility to understand there are hungry people and there are people who cannot afford food.
“Our strategy in the red meat industry is to expand our exports from 4% of our product to 20% but we must recognise the fact that we are going to earn dollars and that people in our neighbouring countries cannot pay dollars and live off what we produce, which is why we have supplements and substances. We need to work together,” he said.
Tie up loose ends
Fruit SA chief executive officer Fhumulani Ratshitanga said the 2021/22 season produced over six million tonnes of fruit and the largest share was citrus followed by pome fruit, table grapes, stone fruit, and subtropical fruit was 5%.
“The industry is export-oriented, with 12% to the local market and 28% for processing. The trends in the past ten years have been concentrated in the European Union and Asian markets.
“The industry has been experiencing challenges with infrastructure, cost increases across the value chain, adverse weather conditions, and biosecurity concerns about the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle,” she explained.
Ratshitanga highlighted that 2024 has opportunities in improvements across the value chain, ongoing national processes and interventions, and the 25-year concession for the Durban container terminal pier which has been awarded two international container terminal services incorporation awards.
She believes implementation of the Agro-energy Fund will increase industry opportunities and competitiveness with the international markets.
According to Ratshitanga, potential risks for 2024 for the fruit industry would be the continued pressure on infrastructure and logistics with an increase in fruit export volumes in the coming season.
“This will be followed by continued cost pressures, and professionalism seen in the de-globalisation of the international fruit industry, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) renewal, geopolitics, and government spending cuts, and implications on public services.
“Agriculture is inherently risky and complex. We see this in the current operating environment exacerbate complexities and the agility to navigate this is very important. So we need commitment and collaboration, which are key for success. I think partnerships are crucial,” she said.
Poultry industry is on its knees
According to South African Poultry Association (Sapa) chief executive Abongile Balarane, 2023 has seen a 23.8% decrease in the number of hens laying eggs, decreasing from 22 771 086 hens to 17 342 597 this year. This is the result of the avian influenza H7 strain that peaked in September and October, leading to the culling of over 9 million chickens.
“This will take up to 17 months to recover the lost production. We will see imports of liquid and powdered eggs because we have 70% of our industry producing eggs, but 30% was affected by the avian flu.
“To cover our losses, we are availing liquid and power eggs for consumer consumption. For industries like bakeries, we advise that they use powdered eggs that have been imported,” he said.
Just like any other commodity, the poultry industry has had to deal with fuel, power cuts and biosecurity factors, which has led to increased retail prices for eggs.
“We are in the third cycle of influenza and 2023 we have about 6.5 million layer hens that were culled and 2.25 million broiler breeders were culled and this resulted in 40 million birds culled to date.”
The lack of government compensation
“Unfortunately, none of the farmers have been compensated by the government and it has been a huge concern because we have not been getting any financial assistance,” explained Balarane.
However, on a more positive note, the H5 strain has two vaccines that have been approved by the government at this stage, Balarane said, and protocol for using those vaccines has been approved and farmers can start vaccinating for the H5 strain. However, the industry is still waiting for a vaccine for the H7 strain to be registered.
“We also welcome the announcement from the deputy president that 3.5 million will be put aside to assist the agri industry and we are still looking forward to that,” he said.
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