People still need to eat

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.


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Department notes US indictment

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


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Africa needs more science writers

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.

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Shoppers cut use of plastic bags by 6 billion

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


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New CEO of the South African National Parks

Mr Fundisile Mketeni has been appointment as CEO of the South African National Parks (SANParks). Cabinet recently approved the appointment of Mketeni for a five year contract. Mketeni has extensive experience in conservation management. He has spearheaded the country’s biodiversity agenda for the last 10 years as the deputy director-general responsible for Biodiversity and Conservation in the Department of Environmental Affairs.

SANParks is the leading conservation authority in all national parks around this country, responsible for 3 751 113 hectares of protected land in 20 nationalparks. It was established in 1926, and is the leading conservation authority in South Africa. SANParks is responsible for 3,751,113 hectares of protected land in 21 National Parks across South Africa. The National Parks, each with their own characteristics, offer visitors an unparalleled diversity of adventure and tourism opportunities such as game viewing, bush walks, canoeing, and exposure to cultural and historical experiences.

“The Department would like to thank Mketeni for his excellent service and dedication to the conservation of our rich biological diversity,” said the Department. “We are looking forward to working with Mketeni as he moves SANParks into the future. In the face of the ongoing challenges of rhino poaching, we have faith in Mketeni’s abilities to address the scourge head-on.”

“I welcome the confidence placed on me by the SANParks Board, the Minister and the country as a whole. I am looking forward to serve the country and committed to continuing with the good work of positioning the organisation as a leader in conservation nationally, regionally and globally,” said Mketeni.

Career background

Mketeni holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management and has 25 years’ experience in the field of Environmental Management and Biodiversity and Conservation. He brings with him a wealth of experience in the development and management of protected areas, tourism development and management, conservation of biodiversity and public sector management. He started his career as a Trainee Manager and Manager for some of the EasternCape Reserves, later moving to SANParks as the Park Manager of the Addo Elephant National Park. He worked in Addo at a time when major tourism developments, concessions and community beneficiation initiatives were being undertaken. Mketeni’s career at SANParks saw him serves as the CEO for the 19 National Parks except the Kruger National Parks, and acted as Executive Director: Parks before taking up the position of DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2004.

He has spent the last 10 years with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) as the Deputy Director General (DDG): Biodiversity and Conservation. It is in this role that Mr Mketeni honed his skills on Policy and Legislation Development, Intergovernmental Coordination and Relations and International Negotiations and Relations. He served as a Board member of South African National Parks and Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and is currently serving as a Board member of South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Mketeni also played a leading role in the development and implementation of the country’s Elephant Management Policy.

Eleanor Momberg


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The status of SA smallholders

(Extracts from a parliamentary address by Mr Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’).

South Africa has adopted an approach that seeks to find markets for locally produced products and Africa accounts for 32 percent of our trade and is a growing market for agricultural produce, although it is from a low base as compared to the European markets. In China we have found a growing market for our agricultural produce. The Department of Trade and Industry has been instrumental in assisting producers in the wine industry with accessing marketing opportunities through international trade fairs in countries like China.

The recently released 2014 Statistics South Africa General Household Survey informs us that South Africa currently has 2.4 million households that practice some level of subsistence farming. We have two hundred and ninety nine thousand smallholder farmers. This represents an increase of 58 percent in the number of smallholder farmers since 2009.

The survey goes on to say that the number of smallholders that receive any form of support is 43, 000 which represents about 26 percent of all smallholder producers in the country. It further tells us that of these, 79 percent of smallholders rated government support as very useful; 18 percent somewhat useful and 3 percent not useful. While the StatsSAs General Household survey indicates that quality of support is favoured by most farmers, 26 percent of smallholder farmers reached represents a need for greater capacity. This tells us that we need to upscale our programmes to reach and support all smallholders. Working together with provinces, we will channel financial, inputs and human resources to broaden our support and reach of our smallholders.

To assist smallholder producers, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ transfers a significant portion of its budget to support programmes. These funds are directly transferred sent to provinces for programmes including CASP, Ilima/Letsema and LandCare. CASP aims at increasing farm output, especially for the beneficiaries of land reform, contributing towards the Fetsa Tlala food security initiative. It further aims to attract more women and young people into the sector. CASP has been allocated an amount of R1.861 billion, an amount of R460 million for Ilima/Letsema and R67.8 million for Land-Care. There is a study underway to look into monitoring the impacts of CASP and changes in its approach. Going forward, together with the provinces, we will realign the focusing and targeting of CASP. All of these are grants that are aimed at assisting smallholder producers, however, penetration needs to be maximised.
Growth sectors
Agricultures contribution to the Gross Domestic Product is about 2.7 percent which is viewed as far below the capacity of the sector and the levels of agricultural production we wish to see by 2030. The Presidents (Jacob Zuma) pronouncement in the State of the Nation Address to deliver on 1 million jobs is however integrally linked to unlocking the growth potential among key industries in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
The fisheries sector forms an important element of the Ocean Economy Strategy, Operation Phakisa. We anticipate that Operation Phakisa, which is still in incubation, will place marine resources central in the economy. Aquaculture development would ensure we close the fish protein gap that may be created by he declining marine capture fish resources. Under Operation Phakisa we plan to grow the aquaculture sector value from two billion rand, as according to our 2010 figures, to up R6 billion with a potential job creation of up to 210 000 by 2030.


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