There is more than meets the eye to agro-processing and industry experts believe that the South African agricultural industry holds much potential. However, concerns have been raised about funding and support for processors.
Food For Mzansi Gather to Grow host Dawn Noemdoe met with a panel of agro-processing experts on Instagram Live to explore the different avenues of agro-processing and why it matters.
The benefits of agro-processing
Agricultural economist Tshiamo Dikoma explained that a common trend in South African agriculture is the same process seen in mining – and that is shipping products out as raw products. What South Africa is lacking, he believes, is the processing of raw materials.
“We need to venture into agro-processing. We are on the back foot – it is not something we are lacking in – but it’s something we are not adding value to.
“The potential of processing products and branding, storage and transportation; each phase generates revenue for other businesses as well … You can start small and then scale up,” he said.
Risks and challenges
Dikoma noted that there are health risks and consumer hazards that must be avoided. “Basically, the infrastructure and the whole set-up needs to be developed after doing market research and investors are available and institutions that can invest in it,” he said.
However, it’s not all roses and flowers for processors and the core challenge for them is access to funding and governmental support.
Buttercup Farmhouse owner, Chantelle de Bruyn from Pretoria, believes that the government is not the only door that can be knocked on.
She suggested approaching potential corporate and personal investors.
“Normally we bypass our departments of agriculture in our respective provinces because we can get funds elsewhere. It is not easy being in processing, but it’s up to us to make it work for ourselves,” she said.
How to find a solution
De Bruyn believes that if agro-processors in South Africa could unite to find an accessible agro-processing model that could help provide funding, local processors would have a different and better experience.
For Elliot Mngomezulu from Goodie Greens in Cullinan, Gauteng, processing pomegranates has helped him explore different avenues of agro-processing. He explained he now processes products that are also useful in the health sector.
“With the pomegranate fruit, we are making capsules and extracting anti-cancer benefits from the fruit and developing three more products like pomegranate gel and the capsule that deal with diabetes and potency in women. We have pomegranate oil used in cosmetics.
“When you have trees, you ask yourself: what else can they add because the season is once a year and you end up finding yourself being idle and doing minimal work a year. So, we decided to do our own pollination and then introduced honey,” he said.
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