This year’s Agbiz Congress was held on 7 and 8 June at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth.

This prestigious congress is one of the major events on the food, fibre and beverage sectors’ agenda of South Africa and a premier agribusiness networking opportunity where business leaders and policy makers meet to shape the future of the broader South African agro-food industry.
Various top international and local experts addressed key issues such as the global agro-food environment we operate in, the global and local political economy, and environmental challenges the sectors face.

Key issues of land and water reform confronting South Africa and its agriculture system, and the impact technology will have on the competitiveness of South Africa’s industries, were also addressed.

Standard Bank was the main sponsor of the congress. The programme offered panel discussions and networking opportunities, including a welcome function on the evening of 6 June and a gala dinner the following evening.

The key note address by Mike Mlengana, director-general at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), centred on the need for government to engage with agriculture to take the country forward.

 Global agribusiness outlook

Prof. Marcos Fava Neves, professor of the Business School of Economics, Business Administration and Accounting at the University of São Paolo (Brazil), addressed agribusiness strategic planning.

“What can we expect from future food and agribusiness trade? It’s complex to understand. We have a lot of opportunities, but we must make them happen. There are many changes in the world, but the food markets in South Africa will grow, offering an opportunity for increased production which in turn will lead to increased exports, development and sustainable inclusion of people.”

He predicted that food prices will remain the same as it is. “This means that we will have to build margins which includes adopting technologies to make it possible to manage our farms and make use of all opportunities by sharing information within agribusiness.”

Neves also emphasises the importance that the government must endeavour to support food and agribusiness. “These are the income generators of your country that can help to include people. We first need to generate income and then distribute income.”

Socio-economic expectations

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a political analyst and a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria, gave a lengthy description of the Mbeki era overlapping the Mandela era and the so-called “tragic Zuma error”.

He recited the devastation caused by Zuma, and “the people’s error” where the response to state capture happened too late and corruption is seated too deep while being institutionalised in certain party politics. He moved onto the current state of affairs, pondering whether president Cyril Ramaphosa is the beginning of a new era or the false dawn of a new era.

“It is South African citizens’ responsibility to keep up with what their leaders are up to, and to keep them within their boundaries. Business people should also keep the rest of South Africa in the loop, allowing them to have an interest in current policies.”

Mkhabela listed a national competitive strategy, entailing matters like greater cooperation between business and government in agribusiness, cooperation among partners domestically paves the way for cooperation at external level, government appreciating the importance of the business sector by using corporate taxes responsibly, not loot & stop which casts doubt on the bona fides of SA business people because they are white, moving blacks from status of subjects to full citizenship.

 Economic outlook

The presentation titled ‘SA: from stabilisation to green shoots’ by Goolam Ballim, chief economist at Standard Bank, homed in on South African politics and macroeconomic prospects. He focussed on stabilisation reforms and structural, growth-enhancing interventions and President Ramaphosa’s actions to further build political capital.

“Thanks to the Zuma era, the output forgone from global and local shock costs the country billions of rands.” He continued, saying that the global cost shock cumulatively reflects at R1 840 billion and that real action against those involved in state capture is essential. “President Ramaphosa will have to fortify his political capital within the ANC. Opposition parties battle presently to adjust to life after Zuma, as there is no more anti-Zuma solidarity. The DA is internally divided, while the EFF is desperately seeking new platforms.”

Mr. Ballim estimated that 5 million “born frees” (born since Nelson Mandela’s era) will play a huge role in the outcome of the next election.

 Technology and global food security

 Dr. Neal Gutterson, Chief Technical Officer, R&D and product development, Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont showed how the market for farmers and consumers is rapidly changing. “People want to know the food story, and they want healthier food.”

“The next generation of growers,” he said, “will be techno savvy and will also communicate differently. New technology opens up opportunities to assist farmers better, and Corteva Agriscience™ believes it can drive customer value through digitization.”

Important discussions were also held on land reform and water governance. Click here to read more.

Another important topic was trade competitiveness and trade policy. Click here to read more.

At the end of the congress Dr. John Purchase, Agbiz CEO recapped the two-day programme, thanking everyone for their participation this year. – Carin Venter, Farmbiz

For more information on the presentations, please visit www.agbiz.co.za/2018-congress.

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