The International Association of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) annual congress is underway with South Africa as host. Influential speakers addressed journalists yesterday. Here is a summary of their comments:
Africa is not only a continent of bad news, but is also known for its ability and talent to produce food, says Dr Klaus Ekstein, head of Bayer in southern Africa.
Cooperation is important to ensure food security and requires a long term connection. Networks need to be established across the continent to make use of this potential. Farmers should not be the only ones involved, but should include extension officers and communities, to produce food not only for their own use but also for exports. Modern crop production must enable farmers to sustainably increase harvests and produce effectively.
Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz, says South Africa needs strong growth to create job opportunities. The role of agriculture and processing should be advanced in the value chain, especially with investments in agriculture and creating export opportunities.
Everything leads to the pursuit of food security, and not only applies to food production but also to affordability and accessibility, with many countries suffering from famine. For African farmers it is a big challenge to rectify the situation.
Land reform adds to insecurity and politicians must be convinced that it is important to create more security.
Omri van Zyl, CEO of Agri SA, says any form of reform must have a healthy, economic base. Farmers should grow economically and profitably.
Kobus Steenekamp, managing director of Monsanto in South Africa, says all farmers play an important role – from commercial to subsistence farmers. There should be no reason small farmers can’t have access to technology.
South Africa has some of the best farmers in the world, thanks to technology that enables them to increase their productivity.
Dr Langa Simela, head of business development of Absa, says financing is important for smaller farmers and enables them to take part in the value chain.
Francois Strydom, CEO of Senwes, says so far Africa has been a destination for agricultural products and not the place where food is produced.