More support for SA farmers necessary

South Africans should be encouraged to buy more locally produced food by making it easy for them to distinguish between local and imported products in supermarkets.

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Speaking at the recent Bien Donné Agri Cape Week in Paarl, Gerrit van Rensburg, Western Cape MEC of agriculture, said local products should be placed separate from imported products on supermarket shelves so that there was a clear distinction between the two. “A lot can be done to make it easier for farmers to produce affordable, healthy food,” said Van Rensburg.

“I think it’s time that we make it very easy for the consumer to distinguish between products produced in SA and imported products. “I am not saying supermarkets should not sell imported food, but it should be easy for consumers to see which products were produced locally in order to facilitate their choice to support local farmers. Van Rensburg said that supporting the local industry would improve the competitiveness of SA agriculture and help farmers produce good quality food at affordable prices.

Cheap imports were one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of the local agriculture sector said Orton King group executive director of the Agri Mega Group, organiser of the Agri Cape Week. King said it was time consumers and government understood and acknowledged the true cost of cheap food imports. “The more food we produce and process locally, the more jobs the agriculture sector can create. Instead, we’re buying cheap imported food at the expense of job creation in our own country,” said King.

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Dr Sharack Moephuli, CEO of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), which hosted the Bien Donné Agri Cape Week, said a lot of the research done by ARC is aimed at responding to the changing needs of the consumer, and breeding cultivars “that meet the needs of consumers and farmers in terms of ease and affordability of production.” ARC’s job was also to reduce the cost of food by developing cultivars that required fewer inputs and delivered better yields, added Moephuli.

He said that over the past year ARC had released 18 new fruit cultivars and the Agri Cape Week gave ARC a chance to showcase the type of work it does so that consumers can see that their tax money is being used productively. Van Rensburg thanked Moephuli for the important work being done by ARC and appealed to Treasury to increase the allocation of funds to this state entity.