n Farmer’s Weekly - Low-hanging fruit is key to agri sector transformation - by invitation

Volume 2018 Number 18018
  • ISSN : 0041-848X



Industrial policy design that identifies and supports high-value agricultural industries, such as fresh fruit, is a relatively easy way for government to truly transform agriculture, drive economic growth, and create jobs. Agriculture led the economic recovery following last year’s recession, and, as pointed out by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the State of the Nation Address, was one of the sectors in which South Africa had a competitive advantage and the potential to become world class. Since 2002, the fruit industry has been the largest contributor to the country’s agricultural exports. Linkages across the value chain multiply this figure in the form of service-industry jobs in packaging, logistics and cold-chain facilities. Technology has enabled the production and preservation of higher-value crops so that they arrive on store shelves abroad in pristine condition. Conserving freshness also adds significant value to the export of fresh fruit. Prof Christopher Cramer of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies dubs the process “the industrialisation of freshness”. He suggests that investment in activities such as packaging and temperature and disease control, as well as computerised logistics, extends the shelf life and increases the value of fresh produce. These activities also bring substantial employment opportunities beyond those provided by primary agriculture. Interestingly, the export of fresh strawberries generates more value than the export of strawberry jam, and fresh fruit commands a higher price than most variants of processed fruit juice.

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