From the left; Marcus Cornaro, EU Ambassador to South Africa; Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati, AFASA president; Mike Mlengana, director-general, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); Cecilia Malmström, EU trade commissioner; Sfiso Buthelezi, deputy minister DAFF, and Neo Masithela, AFASA chairperson.

The EU delegation to South Africa and the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) recently held a workshop at the Cape Town International Convention Centre to discuss market opportunities for South African emerging farmers in the growing European market for sustainably produced goods.

The event’s objectives were to share information about the general concepts of organic, fair trade and the EU’s ethical trade policy and to inform stakeholders about market opportunities for organic, fair trade and ethical trade for the benefit of SA companies. The event also provided participants with information on how to access this niche market and the enormous potential of the market given its high growth rates and consumer interest in sustainably farmed products.

Participants were primarily emerging farmers who produced fynbos, rooibos, vegetables, citrus and fibre. Cecilia Malmström, EU trade commissioner and Mike Mlengana, DG of the department of agriculture, delivered keynote addresses.

Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati, AFASA president, said there were several success stories proving that South African smallholder farmers were suited to supplying high value niche market products for the European market. “Let us work together to reap the opportunities and support small farmers to further professionalise production and marketing to succeed in this highly lucrative export market,” said Mahlati.

“South Africa ranks 11th in the EU’s top agricultural importing partners with a surplus balance of almost €1billion (R16 billion). There is great opportunity for South African producers to increase exports of sustainably produced products into the EU if recommendations from this workshop are successfully implemented,” Malmström said.

Agric DG Mike Mlengana supports organic initiative

Responding on behalf of the deputy minister of agriculture, Sifiso Buthelezi, Mlengana expressed support for this forward-looking initiative that would help South African farmers access the growing organic industry. “The South African government is committed to working with all stakeholders to build a solid foundation to especially support small-holder farmers. President Cyril Ramaphosa recognised in the State of the Nation Address that we are fortunate to have an agricultural sector that is well-developed, resilient and diversified; and agricultural exports are an important source of revenue for our economy and job creation,” Mlengana said.

Success stories from the mohair and  wool, wildflower, organic rooibos and citrus sectors were presented to participants from government, South African industry associations, farmer associations, emerging farmers and experts in the fields of trade, and sustainable and fair production.

“The EU is encouraged by the success stories and entrepreneurial spirit showcased today. We are looking  forward to replicating this initiative in other sectors and increasing trade between the EU and South Africa,”  said Marcus Cornaro, the EU’s ambassador to South Africa. – Press release