Viability depends on efficient supply base

An agricultural supply base would be essential for large-scale agro-processing investments in the Eastern Cape to succeed, said Andrew Murray, executive director of the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC).

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Currently, the Eastern Cape exhibits significant supply challenges in the timber, livestock and dairy industries, he said, speaking at an agro-processing summit hosted by the East London Industrial development Zone (IDZ).
“In the timber-processing sector there’s a serious constraint around wood supply. In the dairy and livestock sectors there’s a serious undersupply,” Murray said.

But the state would have to minimise uncoordinated investments in the agricultural sector, he added.
“Let’s not pump a lot of money into disparate small projects. As the state, lets rather consolidate resources and put that money into well-thought-through value-chain developments with clear markets, instead of putting money into a chicken project here and a chicken project there, with no idea how those projects should be linked to have access to markets.”

What’s more, the state had a tendency to repeat developmental investment failures without understanding the reasons why these initiatives failed in the first place. “Before we go and set up new projects, let’s look at why our existing projects have failed,” Murray said.

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“Various provincial government departments and development agencies are involved in research and activities that overlap. And corruption and profiteering is a big issue, especially where the state is involved and is going to be putting in big resources. You’ve got people who act as agents and middlemen and take a big chunk of the money being invested. We need to do away with these patronage networks and combat corruption and the like.”