‘Let’s grow agricultural exports to India and China’

Mzansi likes big talk, but in reality we’re a small player in the Brics market. Currently, less than 10% of our exports are to our fellow Brics nations. The agricultural sector is looking to expand opportunities in India and China

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Agbiz chief executive Dr John Purchase has called on policymakers to continue working with the private sector to prioritise the expansion of agricultural export markets with India and China.

Purchase made this call during a high-profile meeting last week with the department of trade, industry and competition. Also representing the agricultural sector were Agri SA, the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, and the National African Farmers’ Union.

Boosting economic growth

Dr John Purchase, Agbiz CEO
Dr John Purchase, the CEO of Agbiz. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The meeting of the Brics Agribusiness Working Group, of which Purchase is the chairperson, was held in the spirit of supporting South Africa’s growth initiatives.

Stakeholders expressed interest in increased market access in China and India for a range of products, including wine, beef and horticultural products.

Asia and the far East, particularly India and China, have become a key growth frontier that presents Mzansi with new opportunities to expand its exports.

Overall, Asia has accounted for a quarter of South Africa’s agricultural exports with indications that the country can potentially increase its market substantially in the future.

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Exports to fellow Brics nations

India and China are of particular interest to Mzansi because they account for 36% of the world’s population whose economic sizes are $32 trillion and $15,5 trillion, respectively.

With India and China headlining the growth potential in Asia and the Far East, this region overall is significant enough to warrant more attention especially given that there is currently no market access for South Africa.

Mzansi’s agricultural sector is also exceedingly export-oriented with exports accounting for roughly half of the production in value terms. This equates to about US$10 billion in 2020, a 3% year-on-year increase.

However, South Africa remains a small player in the Brics market, with Brazil, Russia, India and China accounting for less than 10% of Mzansi’s exports.

The main hindrance has largely been both tariff and non-tariff barriers. The Brics Agribusiness Working Group advocated for preferential market access, which will address the aforementioned challenges.

Purchase said, “These countries (India and China) do not only comprise growing populations, but also growing income and change in consumer preference, which bodes well for the products South Africa produces for export.

“The Brics Agribusiness Working Group looks forward to increased dialogue with government structures to reach these objectives.”

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