Although 2014 has so far been a zero growth year for the South African economy and, slow growth globally, there are still opportunities for local primary producers and agribusinesses to prosper. According to Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank, whatever the economic conditions are, doing well in agriculture always comes down to finding a balance.
“Farmers are some of the world’s most adaptable business people because agriculture confronts more variables than most other industries, including increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. For instance, farmers know that when the rand is weak, they will do well with exports, but will pay more for imported inputs and equipment. The opposite applies when the rand is strong. Either way, you must adjust your operations. Agility will be particularly important in 2015 and beyond, because new opportunities wrapped up in entirely new challenges are about to present themselves,” he said.
Speaking at the bank 2015 agricultural outlook forum, Groenewald pointed out that while most of South Africa’s 35 000 commercial farmers make astute use of technology and modern processes and systems, (resulting this year, for instance, in the highest maize yield the country has in 30 years) growing market insistence on green approaches and green outputs will require reassessment of many operations. “Supermarkets and people in middle and upper income brackets want to know what goes into food and are beginning to define the environmental and health impact they want farm production processes to have. That said, the green impetus will drive greater awareness of sustainability in farming practices, including improved water and energy management, and also open up new markets. The bio-fuels industry, for example, will create demand for maize and sorghum that did not exist before. If you are alert to the trends, you can grab market share early,” he explained.
Best performers in gross farm income
Groenewald stressed that it’s long been the bank’s belief that farmers can increase their share of the consumers’ wallet by participating in downstream activities. This he says would also benefit the economy overall if South Africa could reduce its reliance on imported beneficiated products by making them at home. According to the bank agriculture is well-positioned to take advantage of new production and market options, having outperformed the economy with almost five percent growth during 2014. To some extent, this is attributable to the fact that, even in economic downturns, people still need to eat.
The maize bumper crop is a result of maize farmers succeeding in producing 5 tons per hectare versus the 3 tons previously possible. While net farm income throughout agriculture has been under pressure from rising fuel, energy, and labour costs, gross farm income has been on a continuously upward trend.
The best performers in terms of gross farm income have been animal products, where wool and mohair were the top two, and horticulture, where tea and citrus did best. The outlook for fresh fruit including citrus for 2015 is good because of good weather conditions, thus far. Although producers will have to contend with the European Union’s concern about black spot during the 2014 season, and the possible effects of the Russian ban on EU Fruit to global fruit markets.
“Among the fuel crops, sorghum and dry beans had year-on-year growth of 55 percent. Soya and canola also saw significant growth. “There is no doubt that it is more difficult to grow in slow economies, but it is certainly not impossible,” Groenewald concluded.
The Department of Environmental Affairs has noted the indictment of two South Africans by the United States Department of Justice. The indictment of the owners of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris is noted. We will monitor developments related to the case.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, assisted the US Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in their investigation. The Department understands that there is a criminal case against Dawie Groenewald and 10 co-accused who are expected to stand trial in South Africa in August 2015 on 1 872 charges including racketeering, the illegal trade in rhino horns, fraud, corruption, assault and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
Legal action by the United States Attorney General’s Office comes less than a week after the Police and SANParks officials successfully apprehended 14 suspected rhino poachers in joint operations in the Kruger National Park.
“The success of the joint operations undertaken by the SAPS and SANParks is an example of the commitment of South Africa’s police and rangers to work together to eliminate rhino poaching from our country,” said the Department. The three highly successful operations had been undertaken in the Kruger National Park between Friday, 17 October 2014, and Sunday, 19 October 2014.
The arrest of the 14 suspected rhino poachers brought to 113 the total number of poachers arrested in the Kruger National Park so far this year. The Department is confident that joint operations such as these will send a strong message to all those intent on poaching any species, particularly rhino, in our national parks, provincial reserves and on private conservation land – which they will be caught and face the full might of the law.
The successful arrests in the Kruger National Park came as the number of rhino poached in South Africa since the start of 2014 increased to 899. The Kruger National Park continued to bear the brunt of rhino poaching in South Africa, having lost 581 animals since 1 January 2014. A total of 109 rhino have been poached in Limpopo, 74 in KwaZulu-Natal, 57 in Mpumalanga and 53 in North West. A second rhino has been poached in the Northern Cape.
Since January 2014, a total of 282 alleged rhino poachers have been arrested. Among these are alleged rhino poaching syndicate leader.
*South Africans are urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211
Mandi Smallhorne, President of the South African Science Journalists’ Association (SASJA), has been elected as the President of the African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ) – and has set some important priorities for her five year term of office. Speaking from Nairobi, where the AFSJ meeting was held in October, Ms Smallhorne says the AFSJ meeting which elected her had expressed a united determination to back an African bid to bring the next World Conference of Science Journalists to Africa.
This will be her first priority as AFSJ President: “There’s a wealth of talent, skill and experience in Africa, all of which will be brought to bear on making this bid a success. This is not just about it being Africa’s turn to host the WFSJ Conference (which it is); it’s about enhancing the respect in which science journalists are held on the continent.”
Boosting respect for science journalists is important because they play an increasingly critical role in interpreting some of the most important issues of our time, Ms Smallhorne says: think climate change and its impact on agriculture and food security, think Ebola, think energy, think water issues.
“In the light of the urgent challenges facing this continent, support for good science journalism has become a critical need in newsrooms everywhere,” she says. “Science media practitioners are the interface between both policymakers and scientists and the public – we are the people doing the interpreting and explaining of issues that are hard to understand, yet absolutely vital. That’s why we have to be very good at our jobs!” While Africa has some exceptionally good science journalists and a number of countries have strong editorial standards around science communication, we need more support and resources for those who work in isolation, she adds.
Ms Smallhorne sees her role as creating a network of resources for high-quality science journalism that will inform the public on key issues and help to drive development in the continent.
The total quantum of funds which have been collected since the introduction of the plastic bag levy scheme in South Africa in 2003 up to the end of August 2014 is R1.1 billion. The levy was introduced at a modest 3 cents per bag in 2004, payable by plastic bag manufacturers and importers, increased to 4 cents per bag from 1 April 2009 and to 6 cents per bag on 1 April 2013. Given that this is a specific tax (cents per bag) increases are necessary from time to time to ensure that inflation does not erode the real value of the tax.
The levy on plastic shopping bags was introduced in 2004 as a mechanism to manage the problem of plastic bags which ended up as wind-blown litter on fences, trees, and the open veld or in waste facilities via normal refuse collection systems. Initially, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) intended to ban plastic shopping bags. However, in order to limit job losses in the plastics industry whilst at the same time reducing the impact of plastic bag pollution and to encourage recycling, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was entered into by the government (through DEAT), organised labour and business. DEA’s total budget allocation has increased from R2.7 billion in 2009/10 to R5.6 billion in 2014/15, the Chemicals and Waste Management programme was allocated about R66 million in 2013/14 (about 1 per cent of the DEA’s total budget).
The interventions have helped to reduce the use of plastic bags (from 10 billion prior to these interventions down to 4 billion plastic shopping bags per year to an estimated reduction of between 45%-75% plastic bag use) a year after the interventions were introduced. However, a more recent trend is showing increased use (production and imports) of plastic bags. A total of just over R216 million in funds have been appropriated from the National Revenue Fund to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) for recycling initiatives since 2003 (and to Buyisa-e-Bag when it was functional) for the period 2004/05 to 2014/15, as noted in the same Table 1. A non-profit section 21 company, Buyisa-e-Bag was established to promote plastic bag recycling. Buyisa-e-Bag’s main objectives are to promote waste minimisation, awareness creation in the plastics industry, expand collector networks and support rural collection through small, and medium sized enterprises, job creation and capacity-building.
Source: SA Parliament, 2014