The Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy (BFAP) has painted a positive picture for the next ten years for food producers in the country. However, uncertainty on power supply, infrastructure and ports could spoil the mood.
Industries such as livestock, horticulture, citrus and crops are expected to have a positive outlook, but farmers have been warned that the weather conditions could shape how they do.
During the 2023 BFAP baseline 10-year outlook for South African agriculture, experts warned that the failure to deal with growth hindrances would lead to a shrinking economy.
Farmers can only do so much
Dr Tracy Davids, director and manager of commodity markets and foresight at BFAP, said food producers in South Africa were resilient and able to navigate through the storms to ensure a food-secure country, however, they need to be met halfway.
“The agricultural performance has come under increasing pressure over the years with weak domestic demand and biosecurity challenges affecting the exports.
“Food producers, mainly farmers, are cornered with price pressure, market access, and logistical challenges. We cannot emphasise this, that our ports need to work so that our exports market is able to do well,” she said.
Davids said while farmers are faced with increasing cost pressure such as feed costs and persistent power cuts, domestic consumers will remain under pressure for the next few years.
“Exports will be critical to enable sustained growth, maintenance, and expansion of export market access to prioritised regions to accelerate growth,” she said.
The animal disease threat
Davids said animal health in South Africa remains a challenge and solving biosecurity problems is critical to enable the export market.
“The biggest reduction to China, which banned imports from South Africa because of foot-and-mouth disease, has had a huge impact which we slowly recovering from.
“Foot-and-mouth disease has become more frequent and more widespread; the control of the disease is critical. But it’s one of the many problematic diseases that constrain inclusive growth, reduce productivity, and limit export market avenues,” Davids said.
She added that there is a great need to change how things are done to ensure that farming becomes sustainable and profitable in the next ten years.
“A comprehensive red meat strategy is needed to drive change and shape the outlook because herds have expanded and additional production will enter the market in 2023-2025.”
Crop production SA’s best beat
Davids said field crops have done well in the past three years which has enabled investment in technology that can optimise productivity.
“Net exporters of major crops and world prices are coming down which means competitiveness and productivity will be critical to remain profitable.
“Port capacity and efficiency are increasingly challenging as export volumes grow, so we need to really focus on making sure that our ports are in order,” she said.
Davids said a significant yield growth is expected over the next ten years particularly when the environment is conducive.
“Inefficiencies of critical infrastructure, especially state-owned infrastructure, are increasing the risk of failure in the industry, especially for smaller producers and value chain role players.
“Producers are resilient but a sustainable future will require efforts across the whole value chain,” she added.
Expect the unexpected
Meanwhile, Dr Mmatlou Kalaba said while BFAP is celebrating 20 years of existence, the message they have for food producers in South Africa is that it is important not to look at agriculture the same way as in the past because events like war changed the shape of the sector.
“Financial crises, pandemics, diseases, wars, and all these shocks and activities are sending a caution on the work that is being done by food producers.
“Because all of this certainly changes the way you see things. It’s a moment of realisation that the baseline outlook needs to take into consideration all the eventualities that can occur and make us ask ourselves how we adapt and move forward,” he said.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.