Agri SA tackle input costs

Rising input costs remain a serious threat to the profitability of South African agriculture and have been identified as a critical performance area by Agri SA’s Commodity Chamber.
Issue date : 15 August 2008

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Rising input costs remain a serious threat to the profitability of South African agriculture and have been identified as a critical performance area by Agri SA’s Commodity Chamber. The chamber decided at its July meeting that fertiliser price hikes should be followed up on by, among other structures, the Competition Commission, to expedite inquiries already under way. Grain SA has been tasked with analysing current supply and price formation.

Neels Ferreira, chairperson of the chamber, expressed his concerns about the enormous pressure from the trade union movements to reduce food prices. “What these movements fail to understand is that farmers are price takers, not price makers. All the noise about nationalising bread, maize meal and milk production will only result in price reductions for a few months,” he explained “After that such products would just not be available any more because production would become impossible.

The key to lower food prices remains with the free market system, provided the markets are expanded, and with sound competition on the input side of production. Farmers are committed to profitable food production at affordable prices, for consumers who are keen to find out who or what is generating super-profits in the food value chain.” I t was decided that the chamber would approach government again for total tax exemption on diesel. Currently the fuel refund is 90,9c/â„“. “We will petition government because agriculture uses the fuel to provide food for the nation,” said Ferreira. “We’re aware of accusations that farmers abuse the system and urge anyone with information in this regard to inform the chamber. But it’s highly unlikely it’s happening on a large scale. The majority operate within the law.” – Annelie Coleman

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Fresh hopes after EC premier sacked

Organised agriculture in the Eastern Cape is hoping the successor to the recently sacked provincial premier, Nosimo Balindlela, will put a far greater emphasis on advancing agricultural production in the province. I n an interview with Farmer’s Weekly, Cerneels Pietersen of the farmers’ union Agri Eastern said that during Balindlela’s term as premier the union did not have direct access to her. Any letters Cape wrote to Balindlela regarding matters of importance to the province’s farming sector were always forwarded to the relevant government departments to be handled. “After Eastern farming businesses lost R90 million as a result of February’s floods in the Langkloof area, we wrote a letter to Premier Balindlela asking for her specific intervention in gaining some form of relief for affected farmers, both black and white,” said Pietersen. “But, her office forwarded the letter to Gugile Nkwinti, the MEC for Agriculture and Land Affairs in the province. MEC then carried out most of the requested interventions for disaster relief.” Pietersen added that although Balindlela did not deal directly with Agri Eastern Cape, he knew that she appeared to still be highly informed on the activities of the province’s farming sector via her close work with Nkwinti.

“Our biggest concern all along in the Eastern Cape has been that budget allocations have been done through the premier’s office, and the budget allocated to agricultural development and support has not been very high on her list of priorities,” said Pietersen. “is strange because the Eastern Cape’s economy is primarily driven by agricultural activities, which directly and indirectly contribute about 26% to the province’s gross domestic product.” A gri Eastern Cape urged the province’s next premier to appreciate the value of agriculture in the Eastern Cape and therefore to give this sector the increased support due to it. – Lloyd Phillips

Fuel thieves now hit farmers

Farmers in the Boland region are falling victim to an international trend which sees farms being targeted by diesel thieves, according to a report by African Energy News Review. Farms are apparently targeted because their fuel tanks are easy to access and can contain as much as 4 000â„“ of diesel, translating into over R40 000. G errit van Rensburg, Western agricultural spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance, pointed out that farmers who have fallen victim to these incidents have to buy new fuel, and this automatically increases input costs and shrinks farm profit margins.

Kobus Visser, chairperson of the law and order committee at Agri SA, believes diesel theft could increase due to rising fuel prices, but he pointed out that diesel is not the only thing stolen from farms. “There is also a high incidence of fertiliser theft,” explained Visser. “On one farm in the North West even a Ford tractor was stolen.” Visser added that farmers must secure themselves and their belongings. He advised them to read their insurance policies to ensure they comply with insurance specifications. If they fail to do so, insurance companies might not pay out for losses. Both Visser and Van however, feel that it’s primarily government’s responsibility to create a safe environment. “Law enforcement should be practised with vigour to ensure the safety of farmer communities and law-abiding citizens,” said Van Rensburg. – Glenneis Erasmus

SA bees should be safe from colony collapse

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is highly unlikely to affect South African producers, Mike Allsopp from the Agricultural Research Council told delegates at the Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) conference held recently near Heidelberg in the southern Cape. T here has been speculation over the cause of this disorder, which has resulted in the US losing over 800 000 bee colonies a year and is also affecting beekeepers in Europe, but no concrete evidence as to the cause has been found to date. S ome say that the losses are insignificant and a result of winter conditions, even though the losses have resulted in pollination costs rising from US$30 (R229) to 150 (R1 147) per pollination unit in the US.

Sceptics of the disorder are quick to point out that there have been accounts of the disappearance of large populations of bees as far back as 950AD. Allsopp believes the disorder is real, but that it has been largely exaggerated. He also thinks that it’s primarily due to stress factors. “Many bees in the are transported over 15 000 miles a year for pollination services,” he explains. “The bees are also continuously worked and as a result many farmers are using supplementary feed to maintain their bees’ performance.

The impact of these feeds and the continuous working of bees haven’t yet been fully investigated, but it’s certain they’re putting added stress on the bees.” There is also a high occurrence of inbreeding among bees in the US, New Zealand and Australia, where the disorder is occurring. “It’s said that all the bee colonies in can be traced back to only seven queens, said Allsopp. “This could have made the bees more vulnerable to pests and diseases.”

He added that in contrast, South Africa has a huge genetic pool of bees as most of our commercial bees come from the wild. The chances the bees will be overworked are also slim. outh African bees are not transported as much as in the and most local farmers don’t provide their bees with supplementary feed because it isn’t necessary. – Glenneis Erasmus