SA farmers must look to technology – AMT conference

The Agrimark Trends (AMT) annual agricultural outlook conference held in Pretoria recently focussed on trends in weather, technology, land reform, genetically modified (GM) seeds and farming opportunities in Africa.

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Speakers included economist Dr Roelof Botha, political analyst JP Landman, environmentalist Dr Anthony Turton, the managing director of John Deere in sub-Sahara Africa, Jason Brantley, Dr Theo de Jager, president of the Pan African Farmer’s Organisation and Prof Hannes Rautenbach of the meteorology unit at the University of Pretoria.

Speaking to Farmer’s Weekly, Jason Brantley said that with profit margins under pressure in agriculture, technology could make all the difference in a farming operation’s profitability.

“If you have a profit margin of 2% and the use of technology helps you increase it to 4% then you have doubled your profits,” he said.

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Dr Theo de Jager said farmers could be profitable in Africa. He referred to some examples, saying that compared with the cost of farming in South Africa, Zambia offered an attractive opportunity, with electricity costs of only 22,5% of what was charged locally and rent on agricultural land as low as R7,50/ha per year.

According to Prof Hannes Rautenbach, the current drought affecting many parts of South Africa and predictions of further drought should not be seen as an anomaly – South Africa has faced these types of conditions before and that it will pass.