Agri SA has just released its 2019 survey which shows the agriculture sector has undergone a discernible structural shift in research spend. The survey indicates that the spend has moved away from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) towards private institutions, universities and other government agencies to an estimated 75% of agricultural research funding. This is in drastic contrast to the traditional position of the ARC serving as the nexus of South African agricultural research and presents a set of urgent policy questions.  

The survey was released as part of Agri SA’s 2019 Commodity and Corporate Conference: Research for Development. 

“The impression is that the ARC could no longer keep abreast with the research demand of industry, forcing organisations to seek other partners,” said Dr Pieter Prinsloo, Chair of the Agri SA Commodity Chamber. “The ARC only receives an estimated 8% of research spend from industry, which is quite a reversal of fortunes for the once dominant institution. Our work today will be to redefine the future of the ARC and create new platforms for collaboration that will drive the competitiveness of the sector while providing food security.” 

The ARC, and other government agencies, receive government funding but the organisation is largely dependent on project-based funding from private organisations.  

“These developments present challenges, but also opportunities to consider how best to organise agricultural research in South Africa. The proliferation of private research institutions and the strengthening of agricultural research capabilities in previously broad-based research agencies suggests that it may be best to ride the trend rather than to push against the current. The ARC can in fact focus far better now on public priorities such as bio-security and food safety.” 

The Agri SA Commodity and Corporate Conference takes place from 24 April to 25 April at the Future Africa conference centre of the University of Pretoria. – Press release