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Infrastructure: opportunities amid the obstacles

  • 14 September 2022
  • 1211
  •  Nation in Conversation
  •  nation-in-conversation

During the first session of Nation in Conversation at Nampo Cape, the panelists – under the guidance of the facilitator, Theo Vorster, engaged one another on the topic of infrastructure and more so on approaches to overcome the challenges posed by infrastructure within the agricultural sector. Because of the geographical focus of Nampo Cape, the discussions mainly centered around the agricultural activities of the Western Cape.

The panel members were: Mariette Kotzé (Hortgro), Heinie du Toit (Agri Western Cape), Dr. Kandas Cloete (BFAP), Pieter Taljaard (GrainSA) and Glen Steyn (Port of Cape Town). 

Setting the scene

Heinie du Toit started the conversation by stating that infrastructure represents the backbone of the country’s agricultural endeavors and said that it is important that the national infrastructure is healthy and effective. He furthermore stated that during 2021, South Africa imported agricultural products to the value of R99 billion whilst its agricultural exports amounted to R173 billion rand. Of this total, the Western Cape is responsible for 55% of the national export volume. 

In addition to the above-mentioned, Glen Steyn added that it is anticipated that the Western Cape’s export volumes – especially with regard to table grapes, apples, citrus, and wine, will see a 26% growth within the next five years. He explained that this high growth scenario will only be achieved if all stakeholders work together and that the challenge will be to ensure that the logistic chain is calibrated to the heightened cargo volumes. It is Steyn’s opinion that the country “fell asleep at the job” when the world turned to logistic management and therefore we now face a situation where we do not have the sufficient depth of skill or understanding to keep the logistic chain intact from the place of origin to the final destination. 

According to Mariette Kotzé, it should be noted that producers are price takers and are therefore not able to pass on the impact of ineffective logistic chains, deteriorating infrastructure, and heightened input costs to the consumer. In light of this, the sustainability of export industries is at risk if the challenges are not addressed as a matter of urgency.

Collaboration is key

All the panelists agreed that the key to addressing the current challenges lies within collaborative ventures.

For Pieter Taljaard, greater integration of the different logistical chains holds the answer to addressing issues such as low economic growth and unemployment. He believes that the focus should be shifted to the entire logistical value chain as opposed to mere flashpoints within the chain.

Throughout the conversation, organised agriculture within the Western Cape was presented as the epitome of strategic collaboration and numerous examples were stated to illustrate this point. One such example is the vesting of an infrastructure portfolio within the provincial government by the premier of the province, Alan Winde.

The way forward

In addressing the way forward, two aspects are important according to Steyn, an endorsement by all role-players involved in the strategy that needs to be followed, and a dedicated focus on solving the technical requirements of an efficient value chain. 

Decisions and interventions should, according to Dr. Kandas Cloete, be based on data-driven insights, and as such role-players should invest in research to ensure that there is a solid base of information that informs all remedial actions. 

In turn, Kotzé referred to the Agriculture and Agro Processing Master Plan – or AAMP, as a framework for planning and implementation activities. The AAMP furthermore promotes public-private partnerships to leverage resources. She is also of the opinion that a mind shift is needed, especially concerning producers, from a focus on production to a more market-focused approach.

Taljaard concluded the session by saying that now is the time for implementation and action and that the country and its food producers can’t afford to wait any longer. 


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