by Gerrit Bezuidenhout
The dualistic nature of the South African agriculture industry creates a gap in data gathering between commercial agriculture and new entrants.
Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist of Agbiz, said at the Africa Agri Tech conference in Pretoria that although a lot of data about commercial agriculture exists, the gap in gathering meaningful data about developing agriculture is much bigger. “The issue also lies in gathering these producers’ information to determine what they produce and what their production levels are. It is the only way programmes can be created and policy can be shaped in order to provide these producers with the necessary services and products.”
Wandile said technology and data go hand in hand. “Technology aids with the gathering of information that is necessary for policy shaping and planning. When this happens, technology can be used (where necessary) for practical solutions.”
He said this is not only a South African issue, but one that affects the entire continent where subsistence farmers represent the largest group of producers. There are several countries on the continent where there is little information available about these producers.
“Technology can be used to make a difference in productivity, and I believe there are a lot of opportunities for agriculture to develop further like this. Moreover, the answer not only lies in the production of food for local use, but it can also help to increase exports and to be competitive in global markets.
Wandile says the biggest problem is finding ways for partnerships between governments and the private sector, despite the gaps in data gathering. “When this happens, industrial zones can, for example, be constructed to further stimulate processing in the value chain. We have a fragmented value chain when it comes to commercial and smaller farmers, but by using technology to gather the necessary data, this issue can also be addressed.”