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South Africa farming sector defying turbulence

THE South African agricultural sector is projected to overcome severe challenges afflicting it in recent years.

This as the country explores new markets, the grain industry experiencing a record-breaking year and an increase in hectarage.

It is a welcome development for the drought-prone Southern African region as the country is the main exporter of grain to several countries in the bloc.

The positive developments have set South Africa on course to conquer challenges suffered in recent years, including policy uncertainty, drought in large parts of the country, devastating disease outbreaks, infrastructure constraints and persistent non-tariff barriers and other trade-related problems.

“The industry is learning to dance with the wind, rather than fighting it. It remains resilient despite these major challenges and limitations,” said Paul Makube, Senior Agricultural Economist at First National Bank (Agriculture).

Makube noted South Africa was exploring new markets and had for the first time exported a shipment of soya-beans to Turkey to explore if it was viable.

South Africa is also discussing with China to import maize, avodaco and soya-beans.

According to Grain South Africa, the grain industry has a record-breaking year.

Maize consumption reached record highs, and the market is absorbing production. Another record was soya-beans consumption, which increased by 472 percent last year, although from a low base since 2000.

Makube noted the government had given soft loans to encourage increased capacity to crush the beans to produce oil, mainly for cooking purposes, and several crushing plants have been set up in the rural areas, of which all are in full production.

FNB Agriculture statistics show that hectares under soya-beans have increased 376 percent in the last decade due to better cooperation between the private sector and government.

Production is up by 450 percent over the same period.

Another new record was the consumption of sunflower seed – the highest since 1998 – as well as for wheat with consumption up 30 percent over the same period.

Makube said new technology in terms of drought-resistant, disease-resistant varieties, irrigation water saving techniques and changes in livestock breeding and feeding had shown that the industry was getting lighter on its feet.

The Agriculture Business Chamber said positive weather prospects bode well for South Africa’s winter crop production season.

The South African Weather Service recently forecast that the south-western parts, the leading producer of South Africa’s winter crops, could receive above-normal rainfall, in high frequency, between May and August.


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