Drive launched to manage ostrich impact

The ostrich industry has begun a biodiversity initiative to stimulate improved veld management and more environmentally friendly production techniques within the industry.
Issue date : 22 August 2008

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The ostrich industry has begun a biodiversity initiative to stimulate improved veld management and more environmentally friendly production techniques within the industry. he initiative was made possible by a grant of around R800 000 by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

This is a joint funding stream from the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the Global Ecological Facility, the Japanese government, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. O strich slaughtering almost doubled over the 1990s.

 This expansion, plus a legacy of previous production peaks, has led to accusations that the industry has devastated thousands of hectares in the Klein Karoo, said Susan Botha of the SA Ostrich Business Chamber at a recent farmers’ day. he added that the industry is likely to pose a greater threat in the future as even moderate numbers of ostriches have the potential to dramatically degrade Karoo vegetation.

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 Ken Coetzee of Conservation Management Services confirmed that ostriches are especially a borderline case on game farms in the Little Karoo, because the birds reproduce quickly and some farmers are unable to manage them properly. he pilot programme will focus on flock breeding, as this type of production takes place on natural veld and can be particularly destructive to natural vegetation.

Ten farms in Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo have been included in this stage of the programme. he goal would be to identify specific individualised methods to improve veld management, added Susan. Lessons learnt will be documented towards producing biodiversity management guidelines, and an ostrich and biodiversity long-term management strategy. The project is similar to the biodiversity programmes in the potato and wine industry. The programme will also award farmers for their efforts to farm sustainably through market premiums or better market access. – Glenneis Erasmus

Grain prices will stabilise soon, says BFAP man

Dr Ferdi Meyer, commodity analyst at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), foresees grain prices stabilising over the next few months. Prices saw record highs at the start of the year and then dropped significantly by between 20% to 25% over the past few months. Dr Meyer ascribed this to market adaptation to consumer resistance. “It was bound to happen, as commodities were becoming too expensive,” he said. Dr Meyer believes the same will happen to production input costs. “Farmers aren’t going to buy products if they can’t afford to,” he explained.

“Input suppliers will have to search for ways to cut costs and review prices to ensure products are sold.” T he international grain supply is looking promising, especially with the US not losing as much maize as expected during floods. Local crop estimates for summer and winter grains are looking good, with maize up 117,1% from 2006/07, and winter cereals such as wheat up by 19% from the 2007 season, according to data released by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC).

Maize exports are also up with SA already exporting over a 100 000t/month of maize for the past two months. Dr Meyer didn’t want to say much about when farmers should sell their grain, as he feels the volatility of the rand makes it difficult for even the best economist to predict what’s going to happen.

At the time of going to press the rand had strengthened to R7,15 against the dollar and then weakened back to R7,70 in less than a week. volatility reflects on grain prices as the maize price is based on export parity and the wheat price on import parity. S unflower prices are still favourable even though Safex prices fell from R5 200/t to R4 300/t. Wheat and grain prices don’t look as favourable at the moment. “Each farming situation is different and farmers must base their marketing policy on individual considerations,” concluded Dr Meyer. – Glenneis Erasmus

The pork supply chain gets a quality-assurance tool

To ensure that the pork market is supplied with high-quality pork and pork products, Premier Pork Producers (PPP) recently launched a quality assurance and traceability system (QAT) in Pretoria. he system includes the introduction of a new registered quality mark that will now be stamped onto all QAT-certified carcasses. “After consultation with key roleplayers in the pork-products value chain – producers, abattoirs, processors, retailers and pig veterinarians – PPP has taken the needs of the industry into consideration and, together with these roleplayers, developed the QAT system,” said Hoffies Hoffman, PPP manager.

He said that the reasons for developing the QAT were to deal with biosecurity and consumer requirements on food safety. “The health status of our pig industry is important to its survival, so maintaining a high health status can’t be ignored,” he added. “Consumers in the modern world demand food safety and security and that requires that pork producers adhere to a system that confirms minimum accepted quality standards.”

The certification requirements state that no producer can implement or participate in the system without at least being a member of PPP or having entered into an individual contract with the organisation. Among other requirements, producers must have an accredited veterinary consultant who advises them and evaluates their farm and production processes. Further, they have to develop an in-house standard operating procedure document and comply with the QAT standards, verified by an independent auditing process. A full copy of the standards is available from the PPP on application. – Peter Mashala