Skip to content

EU Green Deal: Challenges and possible gains for South African farmers

By Elise-Marie Steenkamp

The potential challenges that South African farmers may face, are not absolute outcomes. The EU-South Africa trade relationship and cooperation on sustainable agriculture can help mitigate some of these risks and foster a more mutually beneficial approach. Some risks include:

  1. Market access challenges: The European GD emphasizes sustainability and carbon neutrality. It may lead to stricter environmental standards and regulations for imported agricultural products. South African farmers may face difficulties in meeting these requirements, which could restrict their access to the European market.
  2. Increased competition: The GD promotes sustainable agricultural practices within the EU, which may lead to increased domestic production. This could potentially result in greater competition for South African farmers who export agricultural products to the European market. They may face pressure to lower prices or improve the sustainability of their operations to remain competitive.
  3. Trade barriers: The EU may introduce additional trade barriers such as carbon border adjustment mechanisms (CBAM) to ensure that imported goods meet the same environmental standards as domestically produced goods. This could increase the costs of South African agricultural exports to the EU and create further challenges for farmers.
  4. Shift in consumer preferences: The GD aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of agricultural practices, which could influence consumer preferences and may reduce demand for South African agricultural exports, affecting farmers’ income and market opportunities.
  5. Changes in agricultural subsidies: The EU has a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that provides financial support to European farmers. As part of the Green Deal, there may be changes in agricultural subsidies, with a greater focus on sustainability and environmental practices. This could potentially give European farmers a competitive advantage over South African farmers, who may not have access to similar financial support.


The European Green Deal can also bring potential positive outcomes for South African farmers:

  1. Demand for sustainable products: The GD promotes sustainable practices and a transition to a low-carbon economy. This can create an increased demand for sustainably produced agricultural products, which South African farmers can capitalize on by adopting environmentally friendly farming methods. South African farmers can align themselves with the EU’s sustainability goals and cater to the growing market demand for sustainable products.
  2. Collaboration and knowledge exchange: The GD emphasizes international cooperation and knowledge sharing to address global environmental challenges. South African farmers can benefit from collaborations with European counterparts in terms of technological advancements, best practices, and sustainable farming techniques. This exchange of knowledge can enhance productivity, efficiency, and sustainability in South African agriculture.
  3. Funding opportunities: The EU has committed significant funding to support the implementation of the GD. South African farmers may have access to financial resources, grants, or investments that promote sustainable agriculture and climate resilience. This funding can be used to upgrade infrastructure, adopt renewable energy solutions, improve water management systems, or invest in sustainable farming practices.
  4. Export diversification: The GD’s focus on sustainability aligns with the growing global trend towards environmentally friendly products. South African farmers can seize this opportunity to diversify their export markets by targeting environmentally conscious consumers in the EU and other regions. By meeting the EU’s stringent environmental standards, South African agricultural exports can gain a competitive edge in international markets beyond Europe.
  5. Climate adaptation and resilience: Climate change poses significant challenges to agricultural productivity and food security. The GD acknowledges the need for climate adaptation measures and investments. South African farmers can benefit from the EU’s focus on climate resilience, including initiatives related to water management, soil conservation, and agroecological practices. By adopting climate-smart agriculture techniques, South African farmers can enhance their resilience to climate change impacts and improve long-term productivity.

It is important to recognize that realizing these positive outcomes would require collaboration, investment, and proactive measures by South African farmers, policymakers, and stakeholders to align with the goals and standards set by the European Green Deal.


What Does the European Green Deal Mean for Africa? – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The EU’s Green Deal: opportunities, threats and risks for South African agriculture (

Navigating the Opportunities and Risks of the European Green Deal for Africa – Africa Policy Research Institute (APRI) (

African leaders push for adequate financial and technical support to address climate change challenges in the lead up to COP27. | African Union (

Back To Top