SA farmers think ‘organic’

2011-01-22 00:00

MORE and more farmers are making the shift to a more conservation-minded approach to agriculture and food production, says Robin Barnsley, president of local farmers’ union Kwanalu.

In a radio interview, Barnsley recently said more farmers were choosing organic farming to keep up with the demand for healthier food with no pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones in it.

He said a few years ago, only a handful of farmers were employing this method of farming.

The process of organic farming involves moving away from the common method of farming of employing chemicals to encourage the plants to grow, to more eco-friendly methods which involve using compost and other plants that are natural insect repellents.

Barnsley said in South Africa, this method presented an opportunity for the producers.

“We have strong niche markets going for organic, free range and the like, so I think those are important and it’s definitely an opportunity for a producer.”

He said there was still the issue of cost to consider though.

“… But certainly savvy producers should be looking, and are looking, at going down that route.”

Barnsley’s words were echoed by Dr Theo de Jager, Deputy President of Agri-SA, who said that while there were opportunities for organic farmers, especially those exporting their products, high costs were still a deterrent.

It will take years for the switch (to organic farming) to produce the required products, he said.

“The problem with organic farming is that it is very expensive and labour intensive,” he said.

“Although the change is a long process, in South Africa there is a lot of potential for this kind of farming as more and more people are demanding food that does not have too many chemicals.”

“This is not only just with fruit and vegetables, but it is also with meat such as chicken … where people demand that the food does not have these chemicals that fast track the growth of those animals.”

De Jager said many farmers from the country are expanding their operations to other African countries where people are already choosing organic farming.

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