DURBAN - With the agricultural marketplace becoming increasingly global, KwaZulu-Natal’s agro-processing businesses will be required to meet global demands.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Agribusiness Development Agency(ADA) chief executive Zenzele Ndlela says that these global demands come with traceability, phyto-sanitary and sanitary standards that must be met by the entrepreneurs and the infrastructure they use.
“It shall become increasingly important that the infrastructure developed is configured to meet international standards. The ability to meet these standards comes at a significant cost,” says Ndlela.
The ADA says local agribusiness sector is vibrant and boasts new opportunities, which KwaZulu- Natal (KZN) needs to maximise on.
“There is increased participation along the value chain, predominantly in agro-processing, by previously disadvantaged persons."
Ndlela says opportunities available in agro-processing include: red meat processing for cold, specialist and canned meats for the local and international markets. The macadamia industry also presents a number of opportunities, which includes nuts for export, oils for the cosmetic industry and other value added products.”
ADA says that while the sugar industry has suffered some hiccups, opportunities remained in energy production through biomass, ethanol for fuel blend and fibre for various industrial applications.
The ADA was established a decade ago initially focusing on distressed farmers and primary production.
Ndlela says at that time, very few women featured in the projects that were handled. Five years later, the ADA had transitioned towards agro-processing allowing it to produce new products that are having a positive impact on the health of the society.
“The variety of products is wide and lab results have been encouraging. The ADA has assisted more than 40 companies since March 2018. These products are predominantly of a cosmetic and pharmaceutical nature. Of the products tested, two companies have already exhibited their products in overseas markets paving the way for exports. A third company is expected to exhibit in Rwanda in the coming months,” he says
ADA says they expected more of the previously tested products to secure international clients before the end of this year.
Ndlela says the bulk of the projects ADA handles are based in the rural areas in the form of capacity building and infrastructure development programmes.
Ndlela says they are also working with various District Development Agencies and Commodity Organizations to develop and manage projects in their areas. Radical Agrarian SocioEconomic Transformation (RASET) is the programme used to link emerging farmers, DDAs and supply into government procurement in KZN.
Challenges facing the sector include an ageing farming population and efforts are underway to encourage the participation of youth in the sector as KZN boasts strong institutions that produce skilled personnel, Ndlela says.
ADA says there is also a need to develop nurseries that are owned by black entrepreneurs.
Drought and access to water are also a challenges that periodically face the KZN. Water saving technologies and practices are encouraged in the projects. For some farmers, boreholes have been dug or refurbished.
Ndlela says land reform projects also faced social conflicts, lack of coordination of support and inadequate skills. One of their their failures has been their inability to fully address the needs of the land reform beneficiaries due to the lack of adequate resources. The ADA is also providing various capacity building interventions to address these challenges.
More work is also being done to build the capacity of agro-entrepreneurs in the areas of financial and tax management.
Ndlela says the ADA has partnered with investment manager Allan Gray and SA Revenue Services, respectively. The ADA was also in the process of establishing relationships with development finance institutions, which will facilitate the provision of blended finance to projects.