The Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa (dti), Switzerland through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the South African Essential Oils Producers’ Association (SAEOPA) hosted the first South African Conference on Essential and Vegetable Oils to facilitate quality exports.

Experts weigh in on market requirements

The conference theme “Industry milestones, sharing successes and demystifying market requirements” was brought to light by renowned oil and quality infrastructure experts from South Africa as well as Australia, Europe and Turkey.

It brought together over 150 oil producers from all over South Africa and Southern Africa and armed them with highly relevant information from proven experts on the burning issues they face, particularly with regards to their successful entry into the global market place.

Demand for quality oil is on the rise

The demand for both essential oils and vegetable oils is escalating worldwide, which opens up a wonderful opportunity for South Africa with its diversity of climate and soil types to excel and prove itself a worthy contender in exporting both essential and vegetable oils for world consumption.

“The growth in this sector will stimulate increased production (volumes, quality and innovation) of vegetable and essential oils, improved packaging, knowledge of regulatory requirements and internationally recognised testing facilities, understanding of market (and export) requirements, better pricing and distribution. But in order to compete, this industry has to become a quality-driven industry”, said Claudy Steyn, chief director: chemicals, cosmetics, plastics and pharmaceuticals, the dti.

Mobilising the potential of the oil sector

“This conference represents the commitment from the industry and the South African government to join forces to mobilise the potential of the sector and we are proud to be a partner in this milestone to achieve their goal of becoming a global player of exporting quality products”, said Nonhlanhla Halimana, programme manager, SECO.

The conference was structured to answer the most daunting questions that SMEs may have when trying to access markets and provide realistic solutions and success stories. “We believe in guiding, coaching and mentoring SMEs to embed quality at each stage of the value chain as this is the most practical approach and will allow SMEs considering exporting, to produce quality products in the first go which will build the international image of South African oil products,” said Elsie Meintjies, chief technical advisor, UNIDO.

Embedding quality in your own enterprise

SAEOPA expressed gratitude to the GQSP-SA programme for supporting SAEOPA’s new beginning in organising this standard-setting conference and building their capacity to conduct future conferences for its members and the industry. “It provided a unique opportunity for Southern African Oil producers to learn from the champions who have already succeeded in accessing international markets, so they can understand the value of quality and the technical infrastructure available in South Africa so they can embed quality in their own enterprise,” said Karen Swanepoel, SAEOPA. Up to 95% of the SMEs stated that the conference was very captivating and requested that such a conference be repeated yearly to learn from each other.

The public-private dialogue that this conference facilitated will assist the utilisation of available public services and develop demand-driven services required by the private sector, ensuring the sustainability and efficient use of the capacity built. “This will be an important platform in the future to sustainably integrate SMEs into global markets and moreover for the achievement of the 2030 Development Agenda,” said Juan Pablo Davila, industrial development officer, UNIDO.

Addressing quality and standards

This conference falls within the framework of the UNIDO-SECO Global Quality and Standards Programme country project in South Africa (GQSP-SA), which aims at improving the quality of South African essential and vegetable oil products. This innovative programmatic approach was developed by SECO and UNIDO to address the quality and standards compliance capacity challenges in partner countries to facilitate market access for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by working in emblematic value chains per country. The GQSP foresees the development of 12 country projects/interventions over its lifetime of five years. – Press release, SAEOPA