Speakers at the Agbiz/IFC water workshop from the left; Prof Andries Jordaan from the University of the Free State, Raymond Greig from IFC, Mike Nash from PAMSA, Jacques Rossouw from Distell, Alexander Larionov from IFC and Prof Michael van der Laan from the University of Pretoria.

Agbiz hosted its first water efficiency workshop focusing on agro-processing on 25 March. Several speakers discussed the challenges and opportunities that the agro-processing industry in South Africa faces. Water has become an even more critical focus area in the agricultural and agro-processing industries driven by ongoing drought and water restrictions. In his opening speech, John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz, said that water would be South Africa’s biggest problem going forward.

Food industry

Raymond Greig, resource efficiency specialist at International Finance Corporation (IFC) who co-hosted the workshop, gave an overview of how South Africa’s water use compares with best practices in the European Union (EU). Greig said that in the entire value chain of the poultry industry the most water was used in processing. In abattoirs water is used extensively to maintain a hygienic environment and is in meat processing methods.
According to Greig, water usage in South Africa is 28% higher than it is in best practices in the EU. However, it should be borne in mind that SA has a warmer climate and processing methods differ. Greig said that the best way for any enterprise to start saving on water usage is to establish the industry average benchmark and to measure water usage against the benchmark.

Beverage industry

Jacques Rossouw, group environmental sustainability manager for Distell, shared some insights into how the company recently reduced its water footprint in the beverage industry by 25%. They did this by establishing a baseline of the considered industry average and by introducing water metering. Currently they use an average of 3,1ℓ of water to make 1ℓ of beverage which includes wine and other spirits.

Agribusiness industry

Prof Andries Jordaan of the University of the Free State discussed research being done to establish agricultural water management scenarios for South Africa in 2035. Prof Jordaan said that it is already clear that the suggested solutions to the water problem in South Africa as suggested by the Department of Water and Sanitation will not be enough for the year 2035.

Prof Andries Jordaan of the @UFSweb says that there is a link between climatic conditions and foreign investment in South Africa. Throughout history foreign investment has been lower during times of drought and higher during wet cycles.

He emphasised the importance of water for agribusiness and the country’s economy by illustrating the link between direct foreign investment and climatic conditions. Data collected from the 1960s to 2015 shows that foreign investment has been consistently lower during times of drought and higher during wet cycles.
For more information see the Tweets from the day by looking for hashtag #WaterWorkshop on the FarmBiz magazine page. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit