Look to opportunities in Africa, SA farmers urged

2013-02-21 00:00

FARMERS and other players in agriculture have been urged to take advantage of the opportunities in Africa.

Addressing delegates at a Standard Bank road show in Durban yesterday, Willie du Plessis, the national head of agricultural support at the bank, said sub-Saharan Africa had massive resource potential, and farmers should keep their eyes on the continent.

Among the opportunities were ventures in the services sector, infrastructure, technology and logistics.

Du Plessis said the aim of the road show was to engage with leading farmers and agri-business figures on a variety of issues affecting the industry.

The sector has been plagued by problems, including the drought in the United States, which caused commodity prices to soar.

However, agriculture also saw an increase in investment as well as a 300% growth in farm land, said Du Plessis.

The complexities embraced by South African farmers could serve as an advantage when looking for opportunities to expand elsewhere.

Sophistication in SA’s agricultural landscape was on the rise as farmers were investing in corporatisation, employing commercial and financial experts in their operations, Du Plessis said.

“Farmers should be encouraged to grow their businesses and understand consumers and the markets.

“We live in an environment where information and technology are key.”

Urging South African farmers to expand to other parts of the continent, Du Plessis said GDP growth in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa was at between nine and five percent, while in SA it was just above two percent.

In addition, 60% of the world’s total arable land was in this region, Du Plessis added.

Brian Aitken, a commercial farmer based at Manzini Estates in Melmoth, told delegates that commercial farmers had the skills to help develop SA’s agricultural sector.

He said it pained him to see the exodus of local agricultural practitioners to other countries when there was so much to do locally.

“We want to put up a solution and we need solutions to land reform to make things work,” he said.

Aitken said the number of farms in KZN had halved to 3 000. In 1993, there were 6 000 workers compared to only 3 000 in 2007.

“There is a negative perception of farmers and we need to change this. We can work with the people and we can speak the languages,” he added.

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