The feed industry and the broader commercial agricultural sector in SA will not escape the effects of HIV/Aids and population changes. ”The single largest factor determining growth in the consumption in animal products, animal feed and raw materials is population growth,” said Erhard Briedenhann, director of feeds and proteins at Afgri Trading.
He said although the SA feed industry is growing at a steady 3% a year, future growth in the industry will be hindered by low population growth. However, it will be supported by an increase in per capita consumption of meat, milk and eggs. According to 2003 projections by the US Census bureau, populations of Botswana, SA and Zimbabwe would already have started to decline because of Aids deaths. The population growth rates of several other countries such as Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia will also be near zero because of Aids.
E xperts also fear the pandemic will result in the loss of the productive sector of the population. Dr Jan du Plessis, a political analyst at Intersearch, said HIV/Aids will erode expertise and skills availability in South Africa. D u Plessis said the emerging population profile indicates senior citizens could be in the majority and the productive group of people between 19 and 45 years old is declining. “It is a society that may not have the ability to regenerate itself for decades to come and a massive lack of expertise and skills becomes a possibility,” he said.
He said the business community must form alliances outside SA to reintroduce expertise. Apart from the imminent skills shortage, societal changes will also affect agriculture. ”The indicators of yesterday in terms of consumers, productivity and markets will not necessarily be valid for tomorrow as the functionality of the family structure begins to change,” he said.