With 2022 just getting started it is important for farmers to keep up with the trends that are driving success in the new year. From tapping into agri-commodities which have great potential to fast-track your farming business to updating systems and making use of the data gathered on your farm.
On a recent episode of our weekly Gather To Grow interactive discussion on Twitter, farmer Gugulethu Mahlangu and Food For Mzansi editor for audience and engagement Dawn Noemdoe unpacked some exciting new farming trends for 2022.
Joining them as expert panellists were:
- Lunathi Hlakanyane, agricultural economist
- Richard Hay, farmer and plant scientist
- Tamsin Davids, owner of Krystal Consulting, food safety and quality solutions
- Zamo Shongwe, Buhle Farmer’s Academy’s finance and business director
Did you miss this live session? You can listen to the recording here. Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from the lively discussion.
Three agri-commodities with great potential
Agricultural economist Lunathi Hlakanyane kicked off the discussion by pointing out the hot commodities that peak farmers’ interest this year. He pointed out the three commodities that have grown quite substantially and displayed huge potential for exports: kiwifruit, blueberries and mushrooms.
Demand for these three commodities have increased both locally and globally over the last year and a half.
Despite South Africa’s kiwi industry not being that big, it is growing at a noteworthy pace, he added.
“Last year kiwi exports amounted to roughly 564 tonnes, valued at approximately R23 million and of course, assuming a constant growth trajectory, we expect to see this figure grow north of R25 million by the end of this year,” said Hlakanyane.
Blueberries on the other hand have been consistently growing at an annual rate of roughly 51%, explains Hlakanyane.
“The great thing about blueberries and our blueberries in particular is that they are highly demanded in the international market. We export roughly about 70% of them and 90% of them get absorbed by the EU,” he said.
Not much attention has been given to mushrooms locally, but there has been an increase in demand in the last 18 months, Hlakanyane explained. “Over the past year and a half, and especially with the growth of Asian cuisine and Asian foods in particular, we have seen quite a lot of demand for mushrooms, especially from restaurants,” he said.
South Africa’s annual production of 21 000 tonnes of mushrooms may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to China which produces 5 million tonnes or Italy which produces 761 000 tonnes, but it is an industry worth looking into as it is growing steadily each year, Hlakanyane said.
The trend that never goes out of fashion
When asked what skills farmers should be focusing on this year, Zamo Shongwe from Buhle Farmer’s Academy in KwaZulu-Natal said one skill that never goes out of fashion for farmers is the use of data and data integration.
“Applying information they gather around their farms and using that to tell a historical story and predict the future for their farms [is a success factor]. Vital, accurate data that can tell you for instance rainfall patterns, how much you sow, sales versus profit, and which of the commodities is actually your best performing [can increase profitability].
“[Then] integrating that to maybe putting it up on a cloud based system so that you never lose it. To understand your farm backwards and forwards at all times,” explained Shongwe.
Have a food safety system in place
Meanwhile, Tamsin Davids of Krystal Consulting, said that having a food safety system in place is something that farmers should definitely focus on this year.
Davids referenced the fact that in Kenya fast food chains have to source potatoes from other countries and cannot source them locally as they are not certified by Global GAP or certified by any other system.
“That system serves as a cover for you as the retailer, as the client, as well as the farmer. Let’s call it peace of mind, to say that you are putting out a product into the market that adheres to certain specifics that’s in place which protects you as the consumer, but also you as the producer,” explained Davids.
Making use of sustainable agriculture
Farmer and plant scientist Richard Hay said that it was important for farmers to remain cognisant of climate change going forward.
“Focusing on things like irrigation water management, fertiliser management, just trying to make the best use of our inputs [are crucial],” he explained.
Hay said that he would like to see small-scale farmers make a shift to high-value and highly nutritious crops in 2022. “Things like maize that are staples are a good backbone to these small-scale production systems.”
He added that farmers can grow their operations into the next category where they are really making enough to pay off their loans, mechanise a bit more and invest. But they should consider looking into high-value crops.
Don’t forget to join the Gather To Grow live sessions, hosted @foodformzansi on Twitter every Wednesday at 18:00.
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