South Africa continues to be a global pacesetter in many aspects of agriculture.

 This was clear from many of the presentations at the Landbouweekblad Conference held on the opening day of the Africa Agri Tech 2020.

Public and private sector co-operation necessary to drive growth

Opening the conference Chris Burgess, editor-in-chief of Landbouweekblad stated that South Africa is a nett exporter of almost 70% of the 24 major agricultural commodities produced locally. Hopefully the latest addition to this list will be medical marijuana especially in the Northern Cape where efforts are underway to develop the crop commercially. Mr Burgess said it is interesting to note that South Africa and New Zealand are amongst the most advanced countries in the world in terms of their agricultural development despite being amongst the countries that receive the least government support in this respect.

He added that for South Africa to be successful everyone needs to be able to work together and move in the same direction. “One of the key stakeholders in this regard is the state. It is truly encouraging to see a new willingness on the part of government to involve the private sector in solving problems. We at Landbouweekblad are optimistic that South Africa may be on the brink of a new golden age of co-operation.” Examples of increasing co-operation between the public and private sectors include the fight to control foot-and-mouth disease and an undertaking from government to expedite the issuing of water licences.

During his opening address Mmboneni Muofhe, Deputy Director-General – Technology Innovation from the Department of Science and Innovation stated that the government welcomes partnerships with the private sector. His department viewed this as a vehicle to bring innovations to market and were actively involved in developing equipment that can be used to add value in agro-processing.

Wheat is a major staple in Africa with the continent being a nett importer of the grain. South Africa spends approximately R5.5 Billion to import 1.89 Million tonnes of wheat per annum and outflow of capital that is detrimental to the economy and job creation. The Department has invested some R5 Million in a platform designed to develop new cultivars and technology to benefit local growers.

Mr Muofhe highlighted the importance of the sector stating that “agriculture can create more jobs for every rand spent than any other sector. It is estimated that agriculture has the potential to create a million jobs by 2030. The competitiveness of large-scale commercial agriculture must therefore be maintained while at the same time small-scale farmers should have the opportunity to develop into commercial farmers”. Partnerships between state and industry are paramount concluded Mr Muofhe, “there are many opportunities where technology and innovation are utilised As a department we look forward to partnering with industry so that we can make sure we are looking for solutions to the problems you face on a daily basis”.