In order to overcome the challenges faced by agriculture, the sector will need to adapt in many ways. This includes embracing technology, exploring new markets and adapting to more common drought conditions in order to ensure growth in future.
This was the message of Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, rural development and land reform, on the second day of the AFASA Agri-business Transformation Conference in Bloemfontein. Her keynote address was warmly received by the 270 farmers and agripreneurs in attendance.
Didiza said that the challenges that create barriers to entry for people from a historically disadvantaged background are still the same, although the scale may be different. “Access to land, water, finance, research, technology, infrastructure, mechanisation, agro-logistics and markets remain challenges that we must continuously address.”
The impact of climate change can also not be ignored. “Drought will not be a phenomenon anymore, but a more everyday thing,” she said. “In future we know that if it has been dry in one part of the country, it will next be dry in another.” She said farmers and the industry must, for example, think of producing alternative crops which will be more resilient to these changes.
Didiza also stressed the role information and communication technologies can play to overcome challenges. “We can use this technology to adapt. We don’t need to fear it.”
South Africa needs to think differently about markets. “It is not only about inputs, but the way we market our products will also need to change,” she says. According to her, the industry needs to look at other markets and what they want in order to be creative and finally be able to diversify.
The minister confirmed that her department was working with the department of trade and industry to discover new markets and broaden current markets.
Didiza said that agriculture benefits from being industrialised, as regions of the country that have received the proper support can attest. “Our discussion in this conference reflects that there is still scope for deepening our industrialisation in those areas of our country which are still underdeveloped, but hold the promise for agricultural development.”