Change in agriculture: South Africa’s response to global shifts

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Agriculture is not a world in and of itself – it is part of the global economy. During the first session of Nation in Conversation during Nampo Harvest Day 2024, experts convened to discuss the influence of worldwide agricultural trends on South Africa’s farming industry. Key global issues, including climate change, geopolitical strife, market volatility, and supply chain challenges, were identified as significant factors impacting local agriculture.

Read more about local sustainable farming trends here.

Factors affecting change

Johann Kotzé, CEO of Agri SA, highlighted climate change as a pivotal trend affecting the sector, underscoring the need for local producers to cultivate resilience to prosper in a challenging environment. He also emphasised the importance of pragmatic leadership.

Anika de Beer, meteorologist and operations director at Restore Africa, addressed the effects of international weather patterns on South African agriculture. “We need to understand that our natural systems are adapted to current climate conditions, but not just our natural systems, also our manmade systems – our economies, agricultural sectors –are all adapted to the current climate conditions.”

Climate change is increasing the rate of change beyond the speed at which natural systems can adapt. Therefore, producers will have to take ever more drastic measures in order to produce enough food. She cautioned that the country is expected to become increasingly arid due to climate change, prompting stakeholders to consider strategies for adaptation.

Self-reliance can counter change

Dewald Olivier, executive director of Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS), stressed the importance of self-reliance among local producers, noting that unlike their international counterparts, South African producers do not receive government subsidies. Government should not be seen as the solution for challenges. However, government can assist in implementing solutions the industry comes up with. The industry belongs to the producers, and they need to take responsibility and initiative to adapt to shifts in markets and local farming methods.

Corné Louw, senior economist at Grain SA, spoke about the inherent resilience of South African producers, born from a lack of governmental subsidies. He delved into the repercussions of global economic, environmental, and geopolitical trends on agriculture, affirming that South African producers have consistently demonstrated the ability to maintain production, regardless of the depth of these cycles.

A key takeaway from the discussion recognising that South African producers are already in the process of adopting numerous practices to bolster the sector’s resilience. However, there is a shortfall of tools to effectively measure the success of these initiatives. – Renate Louw, Plaas Media

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