US sticks with organics despite lean times

While consumers in the UK are scaling down on the amount of organic products they buy because of rising living costs due to global food inflation, the organic food market in the US has attracted a fiercely loyal customer base.
Issue date : 12 September 2008

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While consumers in the UK are scaling down on the amount of organic products they buy because of rising living costs due to global food inflation, the organic food market in the US has attracted a fiercely loyal customer base. A survey conducted in August by Harris Interactive for the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods, Whole Foods Market, has found that despite rising food prices, 79% of adults don’t want to compromise on food quality.

 Around 70% of them are continuing to buy the same amount of natural and/or organic foods as they always have. However, 84% of them have changed the way they shop for groceries as a result of higher food prices. Surprisingly, the survey results were similar across geographic locations, despite the varying regional impact of the housing slump and economic downturn. C ommented Whole Foods Market’s co-president and chief operating officer AC Gallo, “It’s reassuring to see these survey results as they confirm we’re on the right track in highlighting our value offerings for our customers.” – Alan Harman

North West focuses on service and infrastructure

the economy doesn’t ensure good infrastructure, but good infrastructure is essential for a strong and growing economy. So said Agri North West president Andries Beyers at their annual congress in Rustenburg recently. Focusing on specific aspects of infrastructure, especially safety and labour, the congress hosted various service providers to address poor service delivery in North West. “increasing pressure on agricultural infrastructure such as roads and telecommunication has had a continuous negative impact on sustainable agriculture,” Beyers said.

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“The sector can only contribute to transformation, empowerment and agricultural development as long as it’s sustainable, profitable and competitive.” H e said the infrastructure and logistical requirements of agriculture included amongst other things, road transport, telecommunications and railway transport. T elkom SA’s Theo Hess explained that cable theft is a major problem for the telecommunications provider. However, he agrees with Agri North West about poor service delivery and said Telkom is working hard to deliver services to farmers. he SA Police Services (SAPS) director of provincial crime prevention, Patrick Aseneng, addressed the issue of rural safety and confirmed that rural safety priority committees had been put in place.

 “Through these committees we will compile and implement a rural protection plan,” he said, emphasising that all roleplayers were invited and expected to attend the committee meetings. “The deputy provincial commissioner for policing, Assistant Commissioner William Mpembe, has instructed that the SAPS must arrange a workshop on rural safety,” he said. “So all station commissioners in the province, agricultural unions, legal and communication services, crime intelligence, as well as the agriculture department, must be invited to this workshop, which will be facilitated by a representative from the national head office of the SAPS.”

The Department of Labour then commended Agri North West members for their compliance with labour legislation in the agricultural sector in the province. he manager for inspections and enforcement services, Tebogo Lucas, added that inspections had revealed an 86% rate of compliance. he Department of Transport, Roads and Community Safety did not, however, attend the congress. – Peter Mashala

Farmers to sue DWAF for water rights transfers

Differences in the interpretation of the National Water Act by the senior roleplayers in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry have left 118 applicants for the transfer of water rights with no choice but to take the case to court. This is according to their representative, Hoffie Joubert, a farmer from Upington. Speaking at the recent Agri Northern Cape congress, Joubert said these applicants, from all over SA, have been waiting since 2005 for a response from the chief director of water use, Deborah Mochotlhi.

They have now decided to raise the matter in a collective court case via SA. ccording to Joubert, the delay seemed to have been caused by Mochotlhi’s office’s interpretation of Article 27 of the Water Act. It makes provision for the allocation of water rights on condition that it promotes equitable access to water and that it redresses past racial and gender discrimination.

Joubert argued that new applicants for water rights fall under Article 27, but the 118 applicants already have water rights, so 27 doesn’t apply to them and their desire to transfer their existing rights. Joubert said the article applicable to the 118 applicants was actually Article 25, which, amongst others, claims that the appropriate usage of the trading of water rights under institutional arrangements and accurate regulatory frameworks provides for excellent incentives for improved water efficiencies.

Joubert referred to Water Affairs minister Lindiwe Hendricks, who made it clear in parliament in February 2007 that the letter and spirit of the Water Act is to achieve greater efficiency and productivity of water use. He also pointed out that Hendriks is a proponent of Article 25. “But despite this, we have, in the meantime, been left in the lurch,” said Joubert. “DWAF has refused all applications since 2005 even after a number of meetings with them. We’re concerned about the chief director’s attitude and that she’s made it abundantly clear that she’s not bound by any decisions taken during these meetings. So we are left with no choice but to take the matter to court.” – Annelie Coleman

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.