BRICS agri platform to counter speculation

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa plan to build an agricultural information and digital agriculture platform.

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Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) plan to build an agricultural information and digital agriculture platform, which will provide more accurate long-term market forecasts for food producers and buyers.

The BRICS agriculture ministers reached this resolution at a three-day meeting in China. It is hoped the platform will reduce excessive market speculation, which can cause high food prices and drive inflation.

“The information exchanged will be on the balances of production and consumption of agricultural products and population growth, to ensure comprehensive analysis of the condition of food security in the BRICS countries,” said Selby Bokaba, media liaison officer for agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

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Bokaba said this is in line with the G20 agriculture ministers’ decision to exchange such information. The aim is for countries to jointly explore and implement countermeasures for steep global food price increases caused by speculation, and to ensure global food security.

“The objective is to create a BRICS picture of food supply and demand,” he said. Agri SA chief economist Dawie Maree said the agriculture department hasn’t yet consulted Agri SA about this platform, and it remains to be seen how it would benefit farmers.

He added that speculators were “always necessary” to keep markets like the SA Futures Exchange active. “When it comes to food prices, speculators can definitely push them higher but the market always corrects itself. One speculator can’t determine the outcome of the market. Eventually supply and demand will be the main market drivers.”

Bokaba said SA and Africa’s future prosperity is increasingly linked to the economies of BRICS, and the BRICS forum will help SA tackle its agriculture development deficits to create new markets and ensure global food security.

He said the BRICS nations’ market size and economic growth rates indicate their strategic importance to SA economically, adding that SA needs to diversify its agricultural exports, which consist primarily of fruit sent to Europe and the US. “Studies have identified Africa, South-East Asia and South-South trade (between emerging countries) as the way to go for SA, while maintaining the traditional markets,” he said.

To achieve this, government will have to enter talks about lowering or removing trade-blocking measures between countries, Bokaba said. – Robyn Joubert