Should agriculture take over the game industry?

The draft policy on national game farming recently came under review. Roelof ­Bezuidenhout speaks to ­Eastern Cape rancher Arthur ­Rudman who attended the review workshop and who fully supports the agriculture department’s involvement in the game industry.

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The draft policy on national game farming recently came under review. Roelof ­Bezuidenhout speaks to ­Eastern Cape rancher Arthur ­Rudman who attended the review workshop and who fully supports the agriculture department’s involvement in the game industry.
The game industry would be much better off under the jurisdiction of the National Department of Agriculture (NDA) than under the ideologically-driven Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), according to well-known ­livestock farmer, game rancher and outfitter Arthur Rudman of Blaauwkrantz Safaris in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape.

“Compared with the expertise amassed by private game owners over the past 35 years, the DEAT has been left behind in terms of its capacity to manage animals profitably. Perhaps that department should rather concentrate on problems such as urban pollution, offshore poaching and provincial and national parks,” Arthur told Farmer’s Weekly after attending the NDA’s recent workshop in Pretoria that reviewed the draft policy on game farming.

Arthur believes the DEAT will not be able to police its own proposed national policy on the game industry. “Currently it lacks an overriding national policy and struggles to administer nine provinces, each with its confusing policy based on individual ideologies.”

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The NDA has consulted extensively with Wildlife Ranching South Africa, which is in agreement with this draft, and Arthur says the department seemed extremely positive and helpful at the workshop. “This is in sharp contrast to the several meetings we have held with the DEAT to discuss their draft documents relating to invasive species, norms and standards for hunting, and protected animals, which required us to have legal advisors in attendance,” he explains.

The hunting industry appears to be reluctant to move from the DEAT to the NDA. According to Arthur, this is unfortunate because the NDA is much better equipped to deal with game production. “Game animals are, after all, simply another animal farming commodity,” he says. The NDA also has the research institutions, vets, soil conservation committees and extension officers to help manage the industry successfully. “Further, local property rate regulations, at least in the Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) municipality, allow for tax rebates of 80% for agricultural land use, but this exemption does not apply to ecotourism or hunting,” he adds.

Noting that since the 1980s the South African private game industry has – as has happened globally – progressed way beyond mere conservation, Arthur says that thousands of urban and rural investors have helped to dramatically increase game numbers to such an extent that game owners can now manage and market surplus animals as a business, both domestically and for export.

He explains that over the last ten years subsidised first-world products dumped in South Africa have jeopardised the livelihood of stock farmers, causing an increasing number to switch to game. He emphasises the fact that without all these ranchers the industry would not be where it is today. ”They are willing to regulate their own industry because they understand their natural resources must be managed judiciously to ensure sustainable and vigorous growth,” explains Arthur.

The review workshop followed the invitation for public comments on the policy by the minister for agriculture and land affairs Lulama Xingwana. Participants included the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, provincial nature conservation authorities, the Agricultural Research Council, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Endangered Wildlife Trust, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, academic institutions and hunting groups.

A statement released by the Directorate for Animal and Aquaculture Production confirmed the general consensus amongst workshop participants on securing the future of the wildlife ranching sector in South Africa.

Revised draft policy framework
The name of the revised policy has been changed from Draft National Policy on Game Farming in South Africa to Draft Policy for the Development of a Sustainable Wildlife Ranching ­Sector in South Africa. The newly drafted policy sets a framework to:

  • support the effective management of viable wildlife ranching;
  • ensure the sustainable management of natural resources;
  • facilitate the development of a set of norms and standards for sustainable wildlife ranching;
  • promote and support equitable access to and participation in the sector;
  • provide a framework for effective animal health management;
  • establish a national wildlife ranch/farm and animal database;
  • facilitate promotion and marketing;
  • deal with relevant food safety issues; and
  • promote research and development, training and support services.
    The NDA hopes to finalise the revised draft policy document by 31 March 2007 in preparation for Cabinet approval.     |FW