SA agriculture needs new export markets

The need for South African agriculture to expand into new export markets is highlighted in an article by agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo.

The article, carried in a number of publications, focused on the success of the country’s agricultural exports and the possibilities of expanding into additional new markets.

Sihlobo said that, while exports were expanding in both volume and value terms, they were concentrated in too few markets.

In the first quarter of this year, the main export markets for South African agricultural products were Africa (35% in value terms), Asia (28%) and the European Union (21%).

Sihlobo also noted that increased agricultural production, and particularly exports, was essential to sustain and revive small towns in rural South Africa.

“South Africa’s agricultural sector is export-oriented. Thus, any improvements in production through various development plans, such as the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan, should be anchored on expanding export markets,” he wrote.

“Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, the Philippines and South Korea are key markets in which South African agribusinesses and farmers are interested in expanding their presence. It’s also important to maintain a relationship with the existing key markets.

“All this should happen while domestic efforts to improve the functioning of the network industries are under way. This will be the only realistic path to maintaining the growth of this sector and, with that, job creation and vibrancy of the rural towns.”

The top exportable products were citrus, maize, apples, pears, wine, grapes, figs, dates, avocados, nuts, fruit juices, wheat, wool and sugar, among others.

The “others” unfortunately do not include poultry, which features only on the imports side, despite South Africa being one of the most efficient producers globally and more efficient than any EU country. Exports have been minuscule (less than 4% of domestic production) but plans are afoot to change that, including through the poultry master plan.

The plan includes both expanded production and the opening of new export markets. The local industry says it will be “export ready” by the end of this year. Perhaps by this time next year, poultry will no longer be left off the list.