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Record duty for wheat imports gets green light

Johannesburg – The Finance Ministry has approved an increase of wheat import duties by 34 percent to the highest on record to protect local farmers, but asked the trade commission to review the formula because it is concerned about the higher tariff’s effect on food prices.

The tariff on wheat imports was now R1 224.31 a ton, in line with the International Trade Administration Commission’s current formula, the ministry said on Friday.

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The department has proposed to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies that he considers “an urgent and accelerated review” of the formula, and that this will also be followed by probes into the calculations for sugar and maize.

“The Ministry of Finance is particularly concerned about the impact of the higher import duty on wheat on the price of bread and other staple food, but also mindful of the need to ensure policy certainty, food security and the financial health of the farming industry,” it said.

While South Africa is the sub-Saharan region’s biggest producer of wheat after Ethiopia, it is still a net importer of the grain. The driest conditions since 1992 have damaged crops and livestock and sent local wheat prices to the highest on record, driving up food prices.

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Source: iol


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SA’s water inefficiencies laid bare

JOHANNESBURG – According to the Water Efficiency Report released by ActionAid South Africa on Tuesday, big business should be taking the lead in helping to deal with the country’s water crisis. Because of the threat that water scarcity problems pose to both the social and economic stability of the republic, it urges industry to become involved, at least as much as government, in addressing the issue.

Perhaps there is even a space for a water innovation industry to sprout, much as the renewable energy industry has burgeoned in the face of policy uncertainty and pressing need.

“Companies, whether they are big, small or medium, are all going to be affected by the water crisis one way or another,” says water expert Anthony Thurton, who contributed to the report. “Some of them are going to be affected negatively and they’re going to either ignore it – in which case they will become victims of the situation – and others are going to be very progressive and very positive about it, and they are going to change their business model and tailor it to the new reality.”

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Thurton is also the director of water technology company Gurumanzi, which provides ‘uninterrupted water supply solutions’ that address the water risk problem much like an uninterrupted power supply eases concerns over load-shedding and other power cuts. It provides a back-up water reserve that lasts up to 48 hours, that can be rented by households, schools, hospitals, and even residential or business estates.

“There are many examples of solutions that companies are working on and they are all disrupters, or game changers in their own right,” says Thurton, referring to one company that is in the process of developing a solution that treats borehole water to improve its quality.

Privatisation is controversial 

Johann Boonzaaier is the chief executive manager of the Impala Water Users Association, which owns a dam in KwaZulu-Natal in the only area that has not been affected by the drought because Impala was able to sell water to the municipality. The dam is about the same size as Hartbeespoort Dam and, according to Boonzaaier, would cost around R600 million to build at today’s prices.

But he says privatising water is a controversial topic because access to water is a basic human right. He believes there is much to be done with regard to regulations in such a scenario. He points out how Eskom’s price increases have had a dire impact on the economy and that this would be magnified if the price of water were to rise to match its scarcity.

“The danger of that is that many peoples’ livelihood depends on that water,” says Boonzaaier, “and if you get industries that can pay the highest price, then what will happen to the majority of farmers who farm for subsistence and cannot afford to pay that price?”

The report also notes that making agricultural irrigation systems more efficient could save up to 40% of current water use.

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“Another question is, what is the value of water? For us, the value of the water use is the total cost of maintaining the resource. But in the Western Cape, the price is four times what ours is. So how do you decide? You must remember that, you can get along without food for a while, but if you go two days without water you’re bound to perish.”

Thurton says the National Water Act and the Water Services Act are under review, and that there is a drive to have them amalgamated into one piece of legislation to address the changes that are necessary to improve water efficiency. One of the suggested changes would see residential estates being regarded as water service providers: they buy bulk water from the local authority and distribute it to their users.

South Africans use 235 litres of water per day, while an average world citizen uses 173 litres of water per day. If municipalities could reduce the per capita consumption to the world average, the demand-supply gap would be reduced by almost half – SA Water Efficiency Report 2016

“In effect, what that will do is it will privatise a certain portion of the value chain, and that will open up a whole new way of doing things… On the one hand it presents new business opportunities but on the other it is completely uncharted territory,” Thurton says.

Providing water is government’s responsibility

The report states that, while there are already acute water shortages in 6 500 rural communities, the problem will spread to the metropolitan areas. It states that, by 2030 there will be a 17% supply deficit, with the large cities being the worst affected.

“Cape Town, which falls within the Berg Water Management Area, will need to close a gap of about 28% to meet demand,” reads the report.

But Emily Craven from ActionAid South Africa says the intention of the report is not to start a dialogue on privatisation, but rather how to eradicate the inefficiencies within the country’s water eco-system. In some cases, this would lead to the companies that are directly responsible for those inefficiencies benefiting financially from perpetuating them.

Says Craven: “It would be a bit worrying if the first response from a report like this is a debate on water privatisation. Ultimately, it is government’s responsibility to ensure that people have access to clean, healthy water. That said, there is space for technology to be used to improve the system… We have seen it where mines have water purification plants that allow them to put water back into the system… What worries us is when the monetary value is put into the equation. Because mines are the biggest polluters of the water, essentially what you would have is municipalities buying their own water from the mines that polluted it in the first place”.

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Source: moneyweb


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Can agriculture in Africa sustain a nourishing rural non-farm economy?

After being out of fashion for a long period, agriculture has been coming back into the spotlight again as part of development policy. Amid rising concerns about food insecurity and high expectations from agribusiness, policymakers have started to emphasise the importance of agriculture as a source of employment.

Across Africa interest in agricultural investment as a source of employment growth and profit is growing. In South Africa, the National Development Plan identifies agriculture as the potential basis of one million new jobs.

But how realistic are these hopes? In our globalised and competitive world, agricultural development is not a great direct generator of jobs. In fact, increases in the intensity, efficiency or competitiveness of agriculture often push large numbers of people off the land. Farm workers, less efficient small farmers, and women often get the short end of the stick.

Policymakers often assume that this is an inevitable part of progress. In the past, displaced rural labour has often found alternative employment in the cities. But in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, the prospects for this are slender. Agricultural development may enrich a few – but it can also swell the numbers of the urban poor.

Agricultural development can only serve inclusive growth if it contributes to an inclusive and diverse rural non-farm economy. Unfortunately, policymakers tend to ignore this issue. Agricultural policy is not much concerned with labour markets, while industry and trade ministers tend to concentrate on urban issues.

This is an important gap. Policymakers need to ask how different pathways of agricultural development affect non-farm employment.

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A DIFFERENT APPROACH

A recent multi-country research project funded by DfID and the ESRC suggests that the right kind agricultural development can indeed stimulate rural non-farm job creation. But the links are neither simple nor direct.

The study by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape investigated linkages between agriculture and the non-farm economy. It focused on three rural districts: Weenen in South Africa, Mchinji in Malawi, and Mazowe and Masvingo in Zimbabwe.

Rather than the social accounting matrices usually used for this kind of research, PLAAS and its partners took a qualitative approach. They carefully mapped the flows of money and resources that connect local agricultural enterprises to upstream and downstream markets.

What has emerged is a complex picture. What is good for the farmer is not necessarily good for the non-farm economy. Farmers with deeper pockets may not always spend their gains in ways that benefit their neighbours. Rather, beneficial effects depend on the local political economy.

Three factors are particularly important:

  1. the scale and ownership of agriculture itself;
  2. the pattern and design of upstream and downstream linkages between farmers and the rest of the economy; and
  3. the nature of local social dynamics and power relations.

DIFFERENT LANDSCAPES

Each case study revealed a very different scenario. In Mchinji small-scale farmers on communal land accessed local fresh produce markets by venturing into horticulture. Many new local livelihood opportunities were created – but these were small and vulnerable.

In Mazowe, small-scale tobacco growers who benefited from Fast-Track Land Reform made good money from distant markets, particularly China. This in turn created many opportunities for specialised local entrepreneurs.

In Weenen, large-scale agriculture turned out to be disconnected from the local economy. It had upstream and downstream links to distant markets but contributed little to employment in the area.

WHAT WORKS?

An analysis of the spatial patterns revealed by these case studies suggested some important insights. Simply being connected to distant markets is not enough to guarantee that agricultural development benefits the local non-farm economy.

Access to distant markets can support local employment. But this only happens if such farms are located in dense local networks that are socially embedded and not characterised by highly unequal power relations.

Where there are such networks, the local economy can benefit from trade and income flows. These benefits accrue through the purchase of intermediate inputs, and from local consumption and investment expenditure. They also come about through local retail, processing and transport of agricultural produce.

The scale of agriculture is an important factor too. In the South African case study, large-scale commercial farmers gained good incomes from highly efficient farms that served distant markets. But they also bought their inputs from distant suppliers. They provided little employment locally, and most of their spending on goods and services took place elsewhere. In Malawi, the same tended to be true of large estate farms.

This contrasted strongly with Zimbabwe where, for instance, the opportunities linked to small livestock farming and to small tobacco farmers’ windfalls from trade with China circulated in the local economy.

In all these cases, a common pattern emerges. Where large-scale agriculture is owned by distant players or by a farming elite with few local political or social commitments, the economic networks they create are unlikely to stimulate local opportunities.

Similarly, some kinds of economic integration can actually worsen marginalisation and unemployment. The positive spin-offs of agricultural development in Zimbabwe and Malawi, for instance, seem to be strongly linked to the absence of powerful, vertically integrated and internationally owned corporate food retail chains and supermarkets.

When big supermarkets enter, they create some formal sector jobs. But they also marginalise local farmers, compete with local traders, and suck money out of the local economy. In contrast, small and locally owned retail enterprises and markets are a key element of the agrarian structure. While often modest and not very glamorous, they are crucial for circulating money and economic opportunities.

In all three countries, the research suggests that ensuring an inclusive rural economy is about much more than growth in agricultural trade. Aside from exporting agricultural produce, rural economies tap into national and urban economies via social grants and public service salaries.

Links are also developed through the expansion of the non-agricultural urban economy into rural areas. The existence of migrant networks and “stretched” households that straddle the urban-rural divide also helps.

Additionally, many agricultural entrepreneurs also depend on other, non-agricultural service industries. These include tourism, hospitality, the building trade and small town services.

So, while agriculture can contribute to local employment, it is better able to do so when there is a diverse, rural non-agricultural economy. This diverse economy can ensure that more money is circulating in the local markets, benefiting farmers and other entrepreneurs dependent on agriculture.

IMPLICATIONS

These findings have important implications for agricultural and economic policy.

First, they suggest that agricultural policy should promote smallholder agriculture – not simply as a contribution to food security, but also as a source of employment, and as a powerful hub for forward and backward linkages into the local economy.

In South Africa, while there has been lots of pro-small farmer rhetoric, agricultural and land reform policy is in practice still biased towards large scale farming. The time is overdue for genuine pro-small farmer land reform.

Where rainfall and markets allow, this kind of land reform can make an important contribution to the rural economy and the survival and welfare strategies of poor South Africans. Such a policy would also enable beleaguered medium-scale white farmers – who contribute little to food security anyway – to exit the market.

Elsewhere in Africa, land and investment deals that create large-scale farming enterprises, externally owned and plugged into distant export markets, are unlikely to contribute to local employment. They should not be supported in the mistaken belief that they do.

Maximising the economic benefit from agricultural development and smallholder farming requires better support for local retail and informal markets often disregarded by urban planners. These markets include those for livestock and fresh produce.

Finally, local planning, land use, zoning and anti-trust law and policy should be geared to protecting small informal growers, markets and retailers from being swamped by large-scale agriculture and the intrusion of powerful corporate retailers into rural markets.

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Article Source: sabc

Image Source: theconversation


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Bayer commits to sustainable farming in S Africa

Chemicals and pharmaceuticals company Bayer has joined forces with the Howick-based Future Farmers Foundation to show its support for the Future Farmers initiative. This reinforced Bayer’s commitment to local agricultural development through sustainable food production, skills development and job creation.   Participants of the Future Farmers programme would gain real-world experience on local commercial farms for two to five years to ensure that they had a full understanding of what farming entailed. Once ready, trainees were given the opportunity to hone these skills through international mentorship opportunities or to share their knowledge within their communities to transfer skills, boost agricultural productivity and promote a system of sustainable food production.

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“Bayer is committed to the development of the agricultural industry in South Africa, and this partnership will enable us to contribute to the sector in a meaningful way,” said Bayer communications head Tasniem Patel. She noted that Bayer’s support of the foundation’s vision to develop commercial farming skills for sustainable food production not only helped create jobs but also created opportunities for skills transfer and the development of the overall industry. Ultimately, this could contribute to increased farm output in the future, as farmers were learning to use Africa’s agricultural resources more effectively.

Patel added that the sustainable production of high-quality food should be a top priority on Africa’s development agenda, not only for the continent to meet the needs of its growing population, but also for African countries’ economic trade commitments and growth potential.   “Addressing some of the major challenges in modern agriculture requires fresh answers and we are committed to helping tackle these challenges through our expertise and partnerships,” concluded Patel.

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How WeFarm Connects Small Farmers Without the Internet

There are about 500 million small-scale farmers on Earth, and most of them live on less than $1 a day. That’s half a billion people laboring below the global poverty line, surviving and sometimes struggling to improve their harvests. They’re often separated from larger population centers, or lack the means to educate themselves on specialized farming methods, or run up against natural and man-made obstacles that leave the futures of their farms in jeopardy. In these situations, knowledge is as valuable a tool as a shovel, a seed or a plow. But whereas the internet is readily available to Western nations on the grid, farmers in Africa and parts of South America operate on a digital deficit.

That’s why WeFarm calls itself, “The internet for people without the internet.”

Founded in 2014, WeFarm is a free, peer-to-peer service designed for farmers living around the world. It enables farmers to share information with each other via SMS (Short Message Service), or text messaging. WeFarm translates and connects queries from continent to continent, and has thus far provided more than 100,000 answers to its 43,000 registered farmers.

WeFarm CEO and founder Kenny Ewan developed the service after spending seven years working in sustainable agriculture with indigenous communities in Peru. Many of the communities he lived and worked in were remote and without regular access to the internet, which left them isolated from their neighbors. Ewan was largely concerned about the effects of climate change on the region, and how global warming will necessitate a change in harvesting techniques.

Demonstrate and sell product over three busy days

Today, over 97 percent of scientists agree that global warming will increasingly impact the way human beings live. Developing countries will be hit the hardest of all, making them the critical locus for climate adaptation strategies.

According to Zoë Fairlamb, WeFarm Comms and PR Manager, the idea for a peer-to-peer service came to Ewan when he saw how innovative certain farmers could be when meeting the challenges of climate change. “Kenny noticed, quite soon on, that people could come up with these low-cost, ingenious solutions, but farmers five miles down the road wouldn’t have heard about what these people were doing,” she told Planet Experts. “So that prompted him to think about communication and really pose the question, ‘Why isn’t there a global resource for information on agriculture?'”

Ewan began the process of creating that resource in 2009 when he joined Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), a UK-registered charity that works with smallholder farms and their organizations.

Connecting Farmers and “Changing the Conversation”

Internet connections might be less common in the developing world, but mobile technology is pervasive. GMSA estimates that there are 7.5 billion mobile connections, and 3.7 billion unique subscribers, worldwide. By comparison, a little more than a third (36 percent) of the planet is online. In Africa, many countries have leapfrogged landline technology and gone directly to mobile phones. According toPew, some 90 percent of adults in Nigeria and South Africa own cell phones (mostly “basic feature” phones capable of calling and texting).

Indeed, for most Africans, SMS technology is already an invaluable tool. In 2007, Vodafone launched M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer system, for mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania (the “M” stands for mobile, the “pesa” is Swahili for money). It was the success of mobile tech like M-Pesa that spurred WeFarm to make its initial launch in Kenya in February 2015.

“In East Africa, people are very used to using mobile technology for other services,” said Fairlamb. “There’s also a very strong culture in Kenya and Uganda of people sharing and giving. People trust one another and want to share and help each other.”

In 10 months, WeFarm registered about 33,000 Kenyan farmers with its service. “People love it,” said Fairlamb.

The ultimate goal is to create a global network for small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As Fairlamb explains, “Basically, a farmer can register on WeFarm’s service completely for free just by sending an SMS message to our national number. Once they’ve signed up to the service, they can then ask any question regarding farming and we distribute that question to other farmers locally, nationally and internationally, and the farmer who asked the question should receive between three to five crowd-sourced answers within a couple of hours without having to leave their farm, without having internet access and without having to spend any money.”

It’s a fast, free and convenient solution for farmers on the edge of developing infrastructure, yet marketing the service proved an initial challenge. By definition, these unconnected farmers are scattered and separated, remote and difficult to reach. “We’ve had to be quite inventive in solutions of ways to reach these people,” said Fairlamb. Part of that has been making use of CPF’s farming network and training farmers to become WeFarm ambassadors, which then go out and train others in turn. The most successful method for getting the word out, however, has been radio.

Interviews with radio presenters on both the local and national level have had incredible results, said Fairlamb. “There was one occasion where we did a national radio show and within the space of an hour we had 4,000 people sign up to the service. It was really exciting seeing everyone registering that quickly.”

WeFarm’s Uganda network has also shown promising growth. After launching in late November, they had already signed 2,500 farmers by mid-December. A Peru launch earlier in the year has also added invaluable insights to WeFarm’s information network. “We’re seeing some amazing things, pieces of advice, coming through the system from Peru,” said Fairlamb.

The growth of the service in Africa alone has been extremely gratifying for the WeFarm team. “I think Kenny [Ewan] would say that it wasn’t a surprise but maybe a relief just how much farmers use it and how much they value it,” said Fairlamb.

“There were a lot of people who questioned the peer-to-peer model, but that’s the core of the business. There’s kind of a widespread approach in international development circles whereby people kind of assume and think that people who are living in poverty need to be told what to do. WeFarm wants to be about changing that conversation and giving these people a voice, showing their knowledge is valuable and giving them a way to share that information.

WeFarm’s next big launch will be in Côte d’Ivoire. A Tanzania launch is forthcoming, as are launches in India and Brazil.

Balancing Social Good With Making Profits

Though a humanitarian endeavor, WeFarm is also a for-profit business. Yet it’s a business that is following the growing economic ethos that profit is not divorced from doing good.

The social good of the WeFarm SMS service is giving farmers the means to communicate with each other and share techniques and strategies for improving crops and adapting to climate change. That service is free, so the revenue comes from the wealth of insight that emerges from that communication. Still in the pilot stage, WeFarm hopes to sign up businesses to a monthly service that provides disaggregated data about what’s going on in their various supply chains.

As Fairlamb explains, “Small scale farmers are responsible for producing 70 percent of the world’s food, but the majority of corporate food and drink businesses, retailers, any kind of consumer brand that has small scale farmers in their supply chain, has next to no visibility as to what goes on in that bottom rung. So we offer a service to these types of businesses that enables them to improve supply chain sustainability, make better decisions and help the people who are producing the products that they rely on.”

For a tea company, that might look like, “What are the top three questions that tea farmers are asking this month?” or the top two crops that tea farmers are looking to diversify into. Disaggregated data from WeFarm can also help identify challenges facing various farmers and techniques for overcoming them. WeFarm is also interested in providing lead generation and SMS advertising for more local businesses.

“Constantly on the system we see people asking questions about ‘where can I find this type of seed’ or ‘where can I buy a solar panel,’ ‘I’m interested in a micro-finance loan, how do I go about finding that?’ We’re quite well positioned to be able to connect these farmers to the products and the services that they’re looking for,” said Fairlamb.

WeFarm is currently seeking investment to scale up their operations and connect a million farmers by the end of this year. Thus far, the company has received £500,000 in seed funding from Google.org and Wayra, Telefonica’s incubator. WeFarm recently opened its Series A funding round and is seeking £2.3 million in investment.

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Source: huffingtonpost


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South African wines could be smoked out by fire and lack of rain

Drought, fire, high temperatures and strong winds have wreaked havoc in the Western Cape’s farming sector, with the fruit and wine industries suffering substantial losses. The province will need a substantial bailout if its farmers are to survive, it was revealed at a briefing on Wednesday. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.

The Western Cape government needs over R80 million to assist drought-stricken farmers, while the regional fruit production sector has suffered losses amounting to R720 million, journalists and members of the province’s Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture heard on Wednesday.

The wine industry, which contributes R36 billion to the national economy and makes over 4% of the world’s wine, has suffered losses of a further R20 million. The combination of heat, strong winds, low rainfall and fires have played havoc with the province’s farms, prompting calls for the national government to declare the region a disaster area. The season’s fires have burnt well over 60,000 ha of farmland, with over 6,000 citrus trees and 8ha of rooibos tea destroyed in the Citrusdal/Cedarberg area alone. Vineyards, pipelines, orchards, electric cables and other infrastructure were also destroyed, incurring massive costs for farmers and municipalities alike. Hortgro told the standing committee that the R720m loss would have a “devastating humanitarian impact”, as food prices would rise beyond the reach of the most vulnerable.

The Ceres, Wolseley and Berg River areas were the worst affected, suffering water shortages, major heat waves and crop losses, the committee heard. The drought, extreme heat and strong winds resulted in small fruit – and therefore a decrease in packable fruit – as well as sunburn and a change in pest control and diseases, which led to increased costs. Proposed long-term solutions included regaining access into Thailand, increasing dam sizes, and increasing investment in production infrastructure. According to a presentation by Western Cape Director of Sustainable Resource Management, Andre Roux, August and September 2015’s rainfall, the lowest recorded in 83 years, resulted in crop failure in many areas in the West Coast District. Crop losses varied from 50% to total crop loss in some areas. Agricultural output and employment was likely to drop, and consequently more people would be exposed to food insecurity and vulnerability, Roux added.

Meanwhile in the West Coast and Central Karoo, livestock production is seriously affected due to lack of grazing, and feeding needs to be supplemented with purchased fodder. An assessment is underway in the two districts to determine exactly how much financial aid is needed, although current projections estimate around R88 million for five months.

Stellenbosch, which has around 170 wine farms – the greatest concentration of wine farms in South Africa – has experienced a 33% drop in rainfall during the winter of 2015, with surrounding regions experiencing similar conditions. VinPro told the committee that the South African wine industry, which employs some 300,000 people, saw a 15% decrease in production in 2015, and that although wine producers managed to keep the increase in the cost of wine production to 8%, it would most likely rise to 10 – 15% in 2015. This – in combination with drought and the series of recent fires – was likely to result in further losses. In addition, the fires have a potential impact on the international reputation of South African wines.

“The international demand for South African wines has declined owing to fears of smoke damage,” Beverley Schäfer‚ chairperson of the Standing Committee said in a statement. “This, despite the fact that local winemakers have the facilities to treat the grape for smoke damage, thus eradicating the impact on the flavour. It is critical that government communicates this to international consumers.”

Oenologist, Viticulturist and SAWIS Wine Judge, Lieze Norval, told Daily Maverick that smoke taint was not necessarily a nail in the coffin for South African wines, and that fire damage should be the primary concern for now. Firstly, she said, it’s important to note the areas that were recently affected. Simonsberg, for example, is a prominent wine area – Tokara, Thelema, Simonsig, Muratie, Rustenberg and Glenelly – which are all internationally known, and Elgin is a wine area that is rapidly gaining respect for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and is also the home of Appletiser. According to Norval, there have been serious fires that affected well-known wines in the past, and these wines have remained in demand.

“These top farms will not release wines that will damage their reputation,” she said. “Smoke taint is something real – grapes absorb the smoke into the thin waxy layer that is there to protect the grape. I have not heard of removing it, though I know that as a winemaker you can work with it. Think coffee Pinotage, where the flavour is not from smoke taint, but from oak barrels being exposed to flame. As a winemaker it is possible to work with the flavour, unless it is extreme. But I think the physical loss which translates to financial loss to replace equipment or a completely ruined vineyard is of far greater concern than the possible taint from smoke in the wine.”

The good news, said Schäfer, was that there was not an immediate threat to farm worker employment, although in the long term jobs could be on the line if indebted farmers exited the industry. In order to qualify for additional funding from the national treasury, however, the province must be declared a disaster area by Cabinet. Thereafter, Treasury will determine the budget for assistance. Cabinet has declared droughts in five provinces: Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and the Free State. Until then, the Western Cape is reliant on its own budget. Provisionally, a budget of around R1.5 million has been made available to support individual farmers. Financial support will be given to 30 qualifying smallholder grain farmers who have lost more than 50% of their crop, as well as to their workers. Recovery, Schäfer said, would not be fast, as some affected regions could take years to recover.

Source: dailymaverick


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Ethiopia Plans To Increase Coffee Exports By 45% Despite Food Shortages

The Ethiopian government plans to increase coffee exports by 45 percent in 2016 through incentives and increased support to farmers as the population suffers food shortages in one of the worst droughts in 50 years.

Coffee made up almost half of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product in 2014, according to the World Bank, BusinessWeek reported.

The crop was responsible 84 percent of exports and 80 percent of total employment in Ethiopia.

The U.N. estimates that 15 percent of Ethiopians will face food shortages in 2016. That’s 15 million people, ABC reports.

Crop production has failed completely in some areas of Ethiopia and is down 50-to-90 percent in others, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Aid groups are calling Ethiopia’s food shortages a “code red emergency” and questioning the international response, according to ABC.

Ethiopian coffee makes up 18 percent of the German market and 16 percent of Saudi Arabian demand, BusinessWeek reported.

The country has become a favorite source of coffee for major specialty coffee blenders — especially from the U.S. These include Starbucks, which operates 23,450 locations worldwide, including 12,937 in the U.S.

In recent years, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped the Ethiopian government and coffee cooperatives improve production, processing and marketing of Ethiopian coffee.

The program has mapped the country’s coffee washing and hulling stations and installed technology to trace coffee purchased through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.

Ethiopian coffee exports will increase 45 percent to over 260,000 tons in 2016, the government said in statement early this month.

Incentives will include loans for coffee exporters and processors, links to marketing, and promoting Arabica coffee at trade shows abroad, said a trade ministry spokesman.

Ethiopia earned $780 million exporting 184,000 tons of coffee in 2014 and it also has a strong domestic market, BusinessWeek reported.

The current El Niño, the strongest on record, has caused severe drought in parts of Ethiopia, triggering a decline in food security and massive drop in pastoral and agricultural production, IBTimes reported.

Ethiopia’s livestock population is the largest in Africa. Its cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels and chickens outnumber the country’s human population, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, UNFAO.

Farmers are running out of available grazing land and water as urbanization expands into rural areas. Some of the land that pastoralists once relied on for herding is overgrazed or has been turned into ranches, private farms, game parks and urban centers, IBTimes reported.

As many as 150 people died and many were arrested by Ethiopian security forces during recent protests against government plans to expand development of Addis Ababa to surrounding towns in the Oromia region. Protesters opposed a plan that would displace farmers and herders from fertile, ancestral lands.

Source: afkinsider


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Climate smart agriculture remains key to Africa’s Development

Collaboration by various stakeholders including governments, NGOs and research bodies is needed now to rapidly scale-up the African agricultural sector to improve food security and resilience to climate change,” says Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Programmes Director, at the NEPAD Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) event held on the sidelines of COP21 in Paris, on 7 December 2015.

Research by NEPAD (www.Nepad.org) through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme shows that climate change effects are becoming more frequent and more severe, threatening the reliability and productivity of agriculture, exacerbating the already extreme levels of poverty, and reinforcing persistent inequity and chronic under-nutrition.

The African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is supporting the implementation of CSA in Africa through the Agriculture Climate Change Programme and other related initiatives. These efforts will sustainably increase productivity, resilience and adaptation, as well as build capacity at all levels, especially for smallholder farmers and institutions in order to attain the goal of 25 million African farmers practicing Climate-Smart Agriculture by 2025.

“The African agricultural sector employs 65 per cent  of the continent’s population, 50 per cent of them are women and climate change is predicted to have significant impact on agriculture, therefore, constituting a major hurdle for Africa,” says Miti Chikakula, COMESA Agriculture Officer.

“By adopting CSA practices, smallholder farmers can reduce the risks they face due to climate change, while enhancing food security and livelihoods,” he adds.

As negotiations for COP21draw to a close , participants raised concerns about the  need to include climate smart and gender appropriate policies in the COP21 agreements because women are the majority of African smallholder farmers. Participants also commended the NEPAD Agency’s efforts in making Climate Smart Agriculture a reality for millions of smallholder farmers and forestalling the negative impacts of global climate change..

The side event discussed the continent’s approach to climate change and agriculture, showcased progress, experiences, and lessons from recent work to support the scaling up of CSA in Africa and the way forward beyond COP21. Discussions also centered on what efforts are required by both Africans and development partners to bring aboutpractical and grassroot-based actions on agriculture and climate change; and opening up new opportunities for African farmers.

In closing, Martin Bwalya, NEPAD Coordinator of Programme Implementation reaffirmed NEPAD’s commitment to fighting climate change in Africa and to enhancing resilience and livelihoods through  smart collaboration across all disciplines and sectors;  evidence based processes; expanding the cadre of negotiators in terms of numbers and fields; strengthening capacities of smallholder farmers and institutions; embracing local knowledge and involving women who are active participants and players in agriculture.

Source: biznisafrica


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South Africa on the brink of importing food: Agriculture minister

Farmers across South Africa are losing livestock due to the current drought which may force government to import maize and wheat into the country,Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Friday.

“Stats SA notes that the sector contracted by 17 percent quarter on quarter largely due to drought conditions in 2015. The weather forecast (is) that significant rainfall may only be expected by March 2016,” Zokwana told reporters in Pretoria.

He was part of five cabinet minister briefing media on the current drought, heatwave and water shortages.

“Farmers may struggle their loans and it is affecting their credit worthiness. There is a risk of loss of income as a result of crop failures may even threaten farm jobs.

“This drought can only worsen the hunger and poverty problem. The country may face need to import grains like yellow and white,” said Zokwana.

The drought has significantly reduced the arable land in South Africa.

“Yellow maize stocks will be very tight and may need to be supplemented. White maize is the major staple food for many people. The average maize yield has reduced by 5, 3 tonnes per hectare – the lowest yield since 2008,” said Zokwana.

He said the effect of the drought was being felt already in the supermarket.

“This is going to affect the price of maize meal and affordable basic staple food, especially by the poor and vulnerable. Between July 2014/15, the cost of basic food basket increased by about R21 in normal terms. This drought and low maize will have an impact on our Sadc neighbours. This may become a regional disaster if it persists,” he said.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said communities need to understand that there is a difference between water scarcity and drought.

“We want to share with fellow South Africans the difference between water scarcity and drought. With regards to drought, it is understood as a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall that usually takes over more than one season therefore leading to water shortages,” she said.

“Water scarcity on the other hand is a shortage of water and it occurs when the demand of water outweighs the supply of water. That is what this province, Gauteng, is experiencing.

“The water scarcity is due to persistent high temperatures that lead to an increase in the demand for water coupled with a high evaporation rate from water in our reservoirs. This causes stress on the supply systems and ultimately a system break down as has been experienced.”

Five provinces across South Africa have since declared drought related disasters. These are North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Mokonyane said the current drought was affecting 173 of South Africa’s 1 628 water supply schemes, which serve approximately 2, 7 million households.

She said regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure and have a positive water balance, resulting in a national average dam level currently perched at 66 percent.

Mokonyane said South Africa is a water scarce country, ranked as one of the 30 driest countries in the world with an average rainfall of about 40 percent, less than the annual world average rainfall average.

Government is exploring measures to maximise water conservation and recycling water.

“South Africa is the least in the use of grey water. That is one of the best and quickest ways of augmenting water availability. Grey water is about cleaning the water that has been used in sanitation processes or used in the mining sector,”said Mokonyane.

“The water will be cleaned in our water treatment plants … so that nothing is lost. We should be able to re-harvest that water which has been contaminated. These are some of the game changers we are beginning to introduce.”

Source: enca


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SA counts losses from drought

South Africa’s economy and businesses are beginning to count their losses from the devastating drought that has wreaked havoc throughout the country.

Economists have warned that the drought will push food inflation higher as farmers scale down production to avoid taking risks on the uncertain weather conditions. This, they said, could ultimately feed into consumer inflation and higher interest rates.

Azar Jammine, an economist at Econometrix, said the drought would cut down agricultural production and curtail overall economic growth by at least 1 percent.

Jammine said that, because of the currency’s recent slide, farmers would struggle to contain input costs. This would result in more exports sought to feed livestock.

“For a country that has been able to sustain its own supply to meet its domestic demand, it now needs to turn to imports. This would put downward pressure on the balance of trade,” Jammine said.

“It is not only the consumers who are going to feel the pressure, but the general economy, too, because people will not be able to participate actively in normal economic activity.”

This week reports emerged that crop farming in the North West and Free State provinces had all but come to a halt, with farmers planting less than 10 percent, while in Mpumalanga, planting was at less than 40 percent.

Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said the situation was being made worse by the fact that the planting season was already six weeks behind because of the drought.

Van Zyl said the real impact would be felt during the harvesting season, when production would be much lower than expected if the drought continued.

Huge costs

“There is too much uncertainty in the industry, so most farmers do not want to take a risk and end up having to carry huge costs as a result,” Van Zyl said. “The moisture in the soil is just too low for any productive farming to take place.”

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said it planned to lobby the government for lenience from financial institutions.

Sacci chief executive Alan Mukoki said the organisation was concerned about the effects of the drought on the overall industry in South Africa.

“We feel for our members. We will urge banks to take it easy on them in terms of debt servicing. A lot of people are insured, but you cannot be insured for the long term,” Mukoki said, adding that the drought was a threat to economic growth and inflation, and would probably add to unemployment.

The Red Meat Producers Organisation said most of its members were selling livestock at below-market prices to avoid the fatalities that had left many of their stock dying of dehydration.

The organisation’s chief executive, Gerhard Schutte, said that in KwaZulu-Natal alone, more than 40 000 cattle had perished from dehydration. “If you consider that in a good season, we sell cattle at an average price of R6 500 each, then you will see that we are losing millions of rand, and that’s in one province only.

“We are collecting information from other provinces, but I am afraid the figure could go well into the billions.”

Emergency meeting

Yesterday, organised agriculture held an emergency meeting with the country’s big commercial banks to discuss the effect of the rapidly deteriorating drought situation on the broader agricultural sector and food security in particular.

The meeting agreed to set up a task team of all the major stakeholders in the industry, including Agri SA, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to draft action plans that would assist in mitigating the indicated risks that this serious drought posed.

Van Zyl said the plans would also include engaging the government to ensure food security and the sustainability of the industry.

“Good rainfall in the summer rainfall region of South Africa over the next months is possible and can still break the drought cycle and ensure relief for crop and livestock farmers especially,” Van Zyl said.

“However, scenarios are increasingly pointing to a situation where significant imports of maize, as a staple food crop, will become necessary, as well as the provision of fodder for breeding herds of livestock to be maintained.”

Christo Conradie, VinPro’s manager, said although it was still too early to quantify the real effects of the drought, the wine industry was expecting a smaller harvest this season.

“This might have a negative effect on producers’ financial bottom line,” Conradie said.

“The nature of the wine industry (as opposed to other agricultural commodities), is also as such that there is not necessary a direct correlation between supply and demand and consumer prices moving upwards or downward.”

Source: iol


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