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Niche farming could pave the way for agricultural growth in SA

In light of the critical role that agriculture plays in job creation and food security, targeted investment opportunities in the sector is crucial to ensuring increasing sustainability and productivity in the sector. Experts are of the opinion that South Africa has a chance to gain enormous advantages, especially if farmers were to focus on smaller niche sectors, such as macadamia, pecan nuts, olives and berries; crops which are showing great expansion potential thanks to significant market demand.
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Food production is South Africa’s largest manufacturing sector and is mainly driven by national and multi-national food manufacturers. The local agricultural sector is still navigating a variety of challenges covering the spectrum from severe drought and load shedding to the far-reaching impact of policy uncertainty. Despite these trying circumstances, a number of sectors have performed exceptionally well with the maintenance as well as a growth in yields.

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned challenges, the Bureau for Food, Agriculture and Policy (BFAP), in its 2019-2028 outlook report, highlights impressive growth in agricultural exports over the past decade – a trend that is being supported by the horticultural sector. According to the report, industries such as citrus, table grapes and pome fruit, the report states, have all succeeded in creating a global footprint by sharing in the increasing global trade volumes.

South Africa’s untapped potential

To achieve economic security, many farmers have had to diversify and become innovative to support their primary income streams. These diversification strategies have seen farmers investing in other businesses in the value chain due to the rapidly changing nature of large-scale farming.

Agricultural company, Laeveld Agrochem, for example, has been promoting and growing the niche farming concept for the past three years. "We believe it is important to actively and continuously cultivate innovation in the ever-changing agricultural landscape. Our role is to ensure that every individual success story contributes to the bigger picture of food security and the strengthening of the country’s agricultural sector," says Corné Liebenberg, Laeveld Agrochem marketing director."

Consumer power and impact

According to Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agricultural Business Chamber (AgBiz), South Africa’s blueberry sector is doing exceptionally well, with room for growth in many other niche sectors. According to Mordor Intelligence research, the global market for blueberries could reportedly be valued at around R64bn by 2024 - at an annual compound growth rate of 6.7%. Locally, the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga are expected to be the biggest production areas.

"People have more money to spend on food, especially China,” he explains. “South Africa is a small player when it comes to some commodities, but we can definitely make our mark globally with certain niche products. We must focus on what we’re good at. Agriculture is busy changing around the world. A small country like the Netherlands, for example, is the second biggest exporter of agricultural goods in the world, proving that, with the necessary focus and innovation, it is entirely possible to take lead," emphasises Purchase.

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