27 July 2018

Against the backdrop of a full-blown trade war between the US and China, and the US also targeting, amongst others the European Union and fellow North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries (Canada and Mexico), thus foe and friend alike, the BRICS Business Forum was held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Wednesday, 25 July 2018. Dr John Purchase, as board member of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), attended the forum and shares some perspectives.  Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies provided the welcome address and highlighted the changed economic and especially the trade environment developing across the globe, where protectionism within the US especially, but also within many of the developed countries in the G20 group of countries, was of major concern to developing countries. This has also manifested itself in the current dysfunctionality of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would impact on the ability of developing countries to industrialise and address the key issues of poverty and inequality between and within countries. He called for greater complementarity trade and investment-led trade between BRICS countries to counter the US attack on multilateralism in general, and on the rules-based trade architecture and dispute resolution mechanism of the WTO in particular.  Please   click for further information and perspectives, including the full speeches by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chinese President Xi Jinping .

The Cairns Group Farm Leaders are deeply concerned by the United States (US) Administration's announcement that the US government will provide US$12 billion to support US farmers impacted by tariffs imposed on US agricultural exports.These new subsidies will further distort global agricultural markets and hurt agricultural producers that receive little to no government support. Instead of additional subsidies, Cairns Group Farm Leaders call on the US Administration to follow the advice of US farm organisations to restore market access for US agricultural goods and to end the trade war that has triggered the retaliatory tariffs that now impact negatively on American agriculture.  Press release

The proposal of land redistribution without compensation somewhat marks a shift in policy, and comes at a time when land reform (through both the State and market) has made more progress than experts and policymakers care to admit. Wandile Sihlobo, head of agribusiness research at Agbiz, and Dr Tinashe Kapuya, an agribusiness trade specialist, provide more insight in the linked article, published in July 2018 by the Centre for Development and Enterprise.

Earlier this week Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin stated in an article in  Daily Maverick that "a populist blaming of the Constitution is a useful distraction from the real reasons for our thoroughly unsatisfactory land reform outcomes thus far". Read Cronin's article - It's land reform, not narrow 'expropriation without compensation'. 

One of the most prolific messages from the Nelson Mandela centenary lecture presented by Prof Patrick Lumumba was that T ata Madiba  would have asked why do African countries consume what they don't produce, and produce what they don't consume. He further made a point about coffee, cocoa, tea and other raw commodities African countries export, and then import expensive, high-value, finished products derived from the same inputs they exported.  Click for the article by Wandile Sihlobo and Dr Mmatlou Kalaba, a trade economist with the University of Pretoria and the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy.

Tonight (July 25) I am flying back from East London to Johannesburg after a day visit. The Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform helped organise a session to explore a couple of ideas and initiatives that could drive agricultural growth and employment in the province. I was asked to open the session with a few reflections on South Africa's agricultural economy and highlight the role that the Eastern Cape can potentially play going forward. I discussed a number of things, but at the core, my message somewhat mimicked a view I shared on this blog a few weeks back. Click to read Wandile Siholobo's blog post.

At the first annual Hans Lombard memorial information session on the GM/biotech crop status, Prof Jennifer Thomson, emeritus professor of Microbiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town, said that in 2017 global area of biotech crops comprised 189.8 million hectares, representing an increase of 3% from 2016, equivalent to 4.7 million hectares. Her presentation addressed the global status of GM/biotech crops. Agbiz economist Wandile Sihlobo's presentation focused on global and domestic grain production, highlighting GMO contribution to food security. He emphasised that South Africa produced 26% of sub-Saharan maize in the 2016/17 production season while utilising a relatively small area of 2.6 million hectares. In contrast, countries such as Nigeria (who are not using GMO seeds) planted 4 million hectares in the 2016/17 production season, but only harvested 7.2 million tonnes of maize. Click to access his presentation. Magda du Toit, corporate engagement and communication manager at Monsanto South Africa, paid tribute to the late Hans Lombard - an agricultural journalist who was passionate about preaching the correct facts on GMOs. 

Peritum Agri Institute, based in Bloemfontein, earlier this week signed a sponsorship and collaboration agreement with John Deere Sub-Saharan Africa to become the main sponsor of the Top Achiever Award for the NQF5 National Diploma in Plant Production, presented by Peritum Agri Institute. "This agreement is an extension of a long-standing relationship between these two institutions," said Belinda Louw, director of Peritum Agri Institute. Peritum Agri Institute has been the training partner for John Deere Sub-Saharan Africa for more than eight years, developing practical agricultural training programmes to farmers, with the specific focus on practical skills development and knowlegde transfer applicable for sustainable African farming conditions.  Press release

Despite some cyclical challenges that could impact commodity prices, the investment case for agriculture in Africa remains strong. This was one of the main messages that emerged during the 12th Agribusiness Africa Conference, which was recently hosted by Farmer's Weekly at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. The countries represented by the more than 260 delegates that attended this year's conference included Lesotho, Botswana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Sudan, Angola, Namibia, Tunisia, Italy, Finland, India, Germany, the US, Argentina, Israel, the Netherlands, Australia and France.  Press release

The agricultural company Oos-Vrystaat Kaap Bedryf Beperk (OVK) released its financial results for the financial year ending 28 February 2018 and announced that a record profit before tax and loyalty programme payouts was reached at R261.6 million. This indicates a 25.5% increase compared to the previous year. The volume of business done in the past year amounted to R9.1 billion.  Press release

Click here for the latest newsletter from Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).

The fifth Agbiz Grain Symposium will take place on Tuesday, 21 August at the CSIR in Pretoria. This year's theme is "Value chain impacts".

All the relevant role players in the grain industry, those involved in storage and handling of grain, as well as others involved in the grain value chain, will be attending. About 120 delegates are expected at the symposium.

The symposium will be an all-day event. The programme will be interactive to provide a platform for exchange of information, to engage in discussions, to share opinions and to ask open questions. Confirmed speakers who will present at the symposium are from Department of Transport, the University of Pretoria and the CSIR, plus a few surprises.

In line with the theme "Value chain impacts", sessions are dedicated to "On the move"; "On the farm"; "On the net"; "In the science"; and "In the future". The topics will comprise several issues affecting the entire grain value chain. The first session will cover road and rail transport in the grain industry. The second session is devoted to matters pertaining to the accessibility of information on the internet for the primary agricultural sector as well as the vitally important aspect of on-line security for a business and its employees. One session will be dedicated to scientific matters such as essential information regarding mycotoxins and endocrine disrupters which can affect the grain industry negatively. The symposium will close with presentations about the future of agriculture, focusing on visionary, but useful technologies.

We will end the day with time to network and exchange information with the exhibitors.  Click for more information and to register. .
International Soy for Human Health Conference
1-3 August 2018 | St George Hotel and Conference Centre | Pretoria
More information

Signa B-BBEE Workshops
7 August  2018 | Signa Academy  | Randburg
15 August  2018 | Kelvin Grove Club  | Newlands
PMA Fresh Connections Southern Africa
Conference and Trade show
15-16 August, 2018 |  CSIR | Pretoria
Registration now open
Enquiries: Petrie Vogel, petrie@abevents.co.za

PMA Women's Fresh Perspectives:
Register now for the Women's Fresh Perspectives event which includes a luncheon with keynote 
speaker  Adv. Thuli Madonsela   @ThuliMadonsela3
This is a limited seating event! 

AGRI 5 Commodities Workshop and Expo
20-21 September 2018  East London Show Grounds
Contact info: 011 056 6856

Agbiz Grain Symposium
21 August 2018 | Pretoria
Enquiries: Mariana Purnell, mariana.purnell@agbizgrain.co.za

FERTASA Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition Symposium
21 August 2018 | CSIR | Pretoria
Enquiries:  candice@fertasa.co.za

56th Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA)
25-27 September 2018 | Lord Charles Hotel | Somerset West
Media release

Science Forum 2018
Theme: Win more, lose less: Capturing synergies between SDGs through agricultural research
10-12 October 2018| Stellenbosch

First Bi-annual International Soy for Human Health Conference 2019
11-13 March 2019 | St George Hotel | Pretoria
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