Pork farming will require a mind shift to be successful in the future, believes Johann Kotzé, chief executive officer of the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO). He adds that the quality of your product is essential and farmers need to start feeding their pigs food that is safe.
Kotzé was speaking at a meeting of the Informal Pork Advisory Group (IPAG) in Pretoria where he further said, “The planet, people and pigs are a unit. The future will require tough farmers who accept stewardship, farm efficiently and transparently, and continuously engage and communicate with all stakeholders.”
Food For Mzansi had a chat with Kotzé, trying to understand the current challenges in the industry and what he thinks will be needed to overcome those challenges.
Zolani Sinxo: You made a very bold statement at the IPAG meeting. What did you mean by it?
The first thing is to look at the global context of farming. We need to be more efficient and be competitive with other markets in the world. We also need to present more food at a lesser cost, while not compromising food security and biosecurity. These are very important when we are looking at being suppliers of protein in the next five or ten years, not just in South Africa but in the world.
What challenges are the industry currently facing and how can we deal with those challenges?
I think one of the obstacles that we have, is feed prices. The challenge is that feed is becoming more expensive, which results in people seeking alternative feeds which becomes a challenge on its own. Well, you can feed a pig anything and it will still be healthy. However, the challenging part is that whatever you feed it, doesn’t mean it will be healthy for human consumption.
With high feed prices, some small-scale farmers tend to battle because larger industries tend to buy larger quantities. Small farmers struggle as a result, because less is left in the market. This makes people resort to alternative feeding, which sometimes can’t be healthy or nutritious for humans.
One can use vegetable waste such as potato peels and cheese or dairy factory waste; these tend to be a good alternative feed for pigs. But you can’t just let the animal roam around feeding on human waste and expect it to be healthy for production.
Are there enough opportunities for South African farmers to export their goods to other markets in the world?
Well, the export market is determined by the standard of your product, if it meets the required acceptable international standards and complies with certain regulations. It doesn’t matter whether you are a big or small farmer, your product has to pass certain tests in terms of biosecurity and food security.
Our biggest problem is that we want to dictate the terms of trade, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Your meat must be of a good quality, acceptable by the international market and pass certain levels of biosecurity standards.
Do you think big retailers are maximising the use of small-scale farmers? Are they given a fair chance compared to big farmers?
Going back to what we already talked about, retailers don’t just do business with you just because you are small farmers or big farmers. They look at certain security checks such as biosecurity standards. We can’t really dictate just because one is a small farmer – the markets dictate. If you meet certain requirements in terms of the set standards, I believe that market will be open for your products.
I think we are arrogant and that we think we have rights and privileges just because one is a large farmer or a small farmer. We must all meet the same standards for the sake of the consumer’s health. To meet these standards, you need to ensure that farmers start feeding their pigs food that is safe.
Any other words you would like to share with farmers in the industry?
We need to start changing our mindset to ensure that we remain relevant in this industry for future generations to come. The industry is so fragile, people need innovative ways to ensure that we hold the momentum. If we can think differently, the industry will remain relevant for years to come.
Sign up for Farmer’s Inside Track: Join our exclusive platform for new entrants into farming and agri-business, with newsletters and podcasts.