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Alternative crops aid to SA economy

Key role-players from the various alternative crops industries supported by HORTGRO, recently gathered with members of the Western Cape department of agriculture for a fund report back meeting.

Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, who was also in attendance shared his insights on the importance of alternative crops in the South African economy.

“Our province is going through a difficult period due to climate change and a water disaster being declared. We need to be prepared for the worst. Alternative crops and innovation in agriculture will pull our economy through in troubling times.

“Agriculture is an absolute vital part of the economy, which will suffer without water. Thus we need to emphasis smarter farming practices as illustrated in the SmartAgri* and Fruitlook** initiatives.”

Winde further said that the agricultural and economic landscape will look significantly different in 50 years.

“It will be a ‘silicon Cape’ where smart agriculture, or a knowledge based agricultural industry, will thrive on innovation and technology. I suspect Africa will be the lead supplier of agricultural products.”

Mariette Kotzé, HORTGRO Group Operations Manager, shared statistics from the various industries including berries, honeybush tea, cherries, pecan nuts, proteas, cape flora and pomegranates to indicate its value to the South African economy.

A total of 2 093 441 kilograms of blueberries was exported in the 2015/16 season to predominantly the United Kingdom (70%) and the European Union (27%). A smaller amount (3%) was exported to the Middle and Far East.

A sum of 976 151 kilograms of raspberries was exported to the UK (86%) and EU (14%) during the 2015/16 season.

Pomegranate exports (including processed) in 2016 were at 1 655 817 equivalent cartons (of 4,3kg each).

An amount of 688 tons of honeybush tea, including wild (505) and cultivated (183), was harvested in 2015.

According to a cherry production survey, 2015/16 saw a total production of 1 148 957 kilograms was harvested, of which 63% went to local consumption, 31% was exported and 5% was processed.

Research done by Cape Flora SA indicates that local demand for fynbos products is on the up. There is a good balance on the Western European market concerning supply and demand. Export opportunities in the Middle East, Far East and Asia, and the United States and Canada remain a possibility depending on the exchange rate.

The pecan nut industry has also been doing well with 10 900 tons being harvested in 2016, compared to the 5 700 tons harvested in 2010.

*The Smart Agriculture for Climate Resilience (SmartAgri) project was a collaborative project between the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning (DEA&DP), and the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI). SmartAgri has provided a road map for actionable and prioritised initiatives that will take the agricultural sector road towards greater resilience in the face of climate challenges.

**FruitLook is an open access online platform to monitor vineyards and orchards, building on satellite imagery and weather information. Enables fruit growers to measure water-use efficiency and plant growth.

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