Nation in Conversation: Unpacking the agricultural industry

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The panel members that discussed rural safety at Nation in Conversation. From left to right are Jannie Strydom of Agri Western Cape, Reinhard Geldenhuys of Overberg Disaster Management, Theo Vorster of Galileo Capital, Western Cape producer Pieter Albertyn, Agri Western Cape’s Uys van der Westhuizen, and Gary McKay of Fidelity Security Group.

Four years ago, the Nation in Conversation agri talk show series was launched at Nampo Harvest Day as a Senwes initiative. Since then, key stakeholders in the agricultural value chain have been meeting annually to engage in serious discussions regarding the state of agriculture in South Africa.

Theo Vorster, CEO of Galileo Capital, hosted this year’s Nation in Conversation sessions at Nampo Cape, which took place from 4 to 6 September in Bredasdorp.

Public-private growth initiative

The first of the five sessions focused on the public-private growth initiative (PPGI), as well as the roles of government and the private sector in the initiative.

The PPGI aims to unlock investment and reignite growth in the South African economy. It also seeks to encourage people to participate in agriculture, maintain the country’s strong agricultural and logistics infrastructure, and introduce South African products into international markets.

All the panel members were excited about the renewed motivation from government to prioritise agriculture for economic growth. “Agriculture is currently one of government’s top five priorities,” said Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz. “The partnership between government and the agricultural sector is important for keeping agriculture sustainable and for South Africa’s economy.”

Western Cape transformation

With the Western Cape leading the way in terms of transformation, this session focused on how transformation has been achieved in the province and how it has inspired further success stories. Emphasis was placed on support from industry leaders and stakeholders, especially government and regional role-players such as Hortgro and Vinpro.

Joyene Isaacs, head of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, concluded the session saying that more young people need to become interested in agriculture, as the youth can facilitate inclusivity, sustainability, creativity and change.

Grain industry under scrutiny

A panel consisting of role-players in the grain industry had an in-depth discussion about the industry in the Western Cape. The general message was that producers cannot simply rely on higher prices; they must work on improving profitability and cost per ton.

Dr Dirk Strydom, economist at Grain SA, emphasised the fact that traditional production principles, namely achieving optimal yield at the highest profit, are now more relevant than ever. “Import tariffs can negate the subsidy factor, but we must use our resources efficiently,” he said.

Security in rural areas

With safety and security in rural areas becoming increasingly prominent, panellists focused on the fact that this issue entails far more than stock theft and farm attacks. According to Uys van der Westhuizen, rural safety expert at Agri Western Cape, rural crime is costing the South African economy R7,7 billion each year, with stock theft contributing R1,1 billion to this number.

Panel members, including Gary McKay, operations executive at Fidelity Security Group, and Pieter Albertyn, a producer from the Western Cape, concluded that while producers do not want to spend money on security, it is a necessity.

Wine industry joins in

The South African wine industry joined Nation in Conversation for the first time this year. The discussion focused on challenges and issues currently facing the industry. The panel agreed that the wine industry has come under pressure over the past decade due to international overproduction and low prices, with many vineyards in the Western Cape having been replaced with citrus or nut orchards.

According to Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro, severe droughts have plagued the major production regions and gave rise to a 15% decline in wine production. “This may not sound like much, but it is equivalent to 120 million litres. However, the price of wine has increased by 30 to 40% per litre in the last two years,” he said. – Michelle Verster, FarmBiz

For more information, visit www.nationinconversation.co.za.