How will Africa resolve crop losses?

I was in Malawi for their National Agricultural Fair during the week of the 14th of August, and my conversations with private sector, research scientists and non-governmental organizations gave me a fuller appreciation of the typical challenges in Africa. The two biggest problems facing the African continent thus far have been the extraordinarily low yields and the exorbitant levels of post-harvest losses. Usually, these two issues are addressed as separate conversations. However, while that is conceptually acceptable, both issues ought to be discussed simultaneously in practice – at least from a policy perspective. The reason why it is important to make low yields and high pre- and post-harvest losses part of a single collective discussion is because addressing one and not the other will likely lead to an insignificant outcome. If farmers produce more but neither have the mechanism nor the infrastructure to store their crop, they will still lose their commodities and remain food insecure. So the continent has a twin-problem that will require, at the very least, a two-pronged solution. How bad is the situation in Africa?

From a yield perspective, sub-Saharan Africa is anchored at the bottom of the trend – with average maize yields that are as low as 0.5 tons/ha and as high as 2.8 tons/ha for the continent’s better performers. The average for sub-Saharan Africa is less than 1.9 tons/ha. South African maize yields are of course, an exception, averaging 4.2 tons/ha. However, in other progressive parts of the world, average maize yields are in double digit territory. The United States for instance, averages 10 tons/ha to 11tons/ha. What this means is that sub-Saharan Africa needs to quadruple its maize yields to be able to catch up with the rest of the world.

On the face of it, the statistics above speak to smallholder farmers’ lack of access to high-yielding maize varieties. Ironically, sub-Saharan Africa has been producing numerous higher-yielding maize seed varieties, so the problem of access has little to do with the availability of seed technology. Rather, it has more to do with the poorly developed maize seed supply chains, which often fail to ensure that such seed is made available at the right place and the right time to farmers. The inconsistency of supply means that smallholder farmers find their recycled maize seed to be a more reliable source of seed. How do we fix this? Dr Ed Mabaya has noted that the problem within the seed supply chain has a lot to do with marketing aspects of it. In many instance, smallholder farmers neither know these higher yielding varieties nor are they made aware of the seed’s potential to improve output. So addressing the logistics and marketing of seed can play a critical role in helping to quadruple maize yields.

From a pre- and post-harvest loss point of view, it is estimated that smallholder farmers lose anything between 15% and 30% of their grain production. This is due to a number of reasons which include poor timing of harvesting, inappropriate harvesting practices, adverse weather conditions after physiological maturity of the crop, the crop’s exposure to invasive pests and wild animals, and losses due to poor storage infrastructure.

However, stand-out factors are pest infestations and moisture induced rotting and aflotoxin accumulation – which have become the focus of attention with serious impacts of the False Army Worm (FAW) in the former and human health concerns in the latter.

If we take 15% as the benchmark for food losses, then overall, pre-harvest losses account for 6% out of the 15%, while storage accounts for 6% to 8%. The balance is due to losses during threshing, shelling, drying and transportation – all of which are inevitable in any given production system. The two biggest issues, from a pre- and post-harvest loss perspective, is therefore centered around the actual harvesting practices and storage. Previous estimates reveal that pre- and post-harvest losses in sub-Saharan Africa translate to US$4 billion per year. So how can this be averted? Two conflicting schools of thought argue that pre- and post-harvest aspects should not receive similar levels of attention due to differences in relative importance. Some argue that more attention should go toward addressing pre-harvest practices that lead to mycotoxin infestation because there is sufficient storage to handle existing output. Others argue that storage remains critical and should therefore continue to be expanded in addition to on-going efforts to pre-harvest issues. However, data already shows that pre- and post-harvest losses are almost evenly split in terms of their contribution to overall losses. Therefore, it is critical to address both at the same time. Moreover, there is no evidence so far to show that existing private and public storage is sufficient for the market size in the region.

To what extent will avian influenza affect South Africa’s poultry exports?

The recent past has seen a heightened prevalence of disease outbreaks in poultry – most notably, strains of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Some 18 months ago, the United States had 233 outbreaks of HPAI, while over 2600 outbreaks were reported 8 months ago in several parts of Europe, including Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Switzerland and Netherlands. Outside of Europe, India and Israel reported outbreaks late 2016, after South Korea, Taiwan and the Russian Federation had reported outbreaks earlier in 2016.

Africa had been relatively quiet in terms of HPAI prevalence, until Zimbabwe confirmed an outbreak early June 2017. In late June 2017, South Africa confirmed its own outbreak – the first time the country had HPAI in chickens, with previous outbreaks having only been restricted to ostrich.

Since countries reserve the right to implement trade measures that ensure human and animal health, HPAI outbreaks are customarily met with bans. And as expected, Zimbabwe and South Africa have implemented mutual bans, with Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique also following suit.

To what extent do HPAI-induced bans impact on trade? Import bans on South Africa’s poultry imports from the EU – combined with anti-dumping duties and safeguards – led to a drop in the country’s poultry imports from the EU by as much as a 70% month-on-month basis between December 2016 – January 2017. The drop was particularly severe because a substantial portion of South Africa’s poultry imports – over 75% of overall total volumes – come from Europe, more notably the Netherlands and Belgium, among others.

There are, however, various arrangements that have been made to allow trade to take place despite outbreaks of HPAI. For instance, the UK and the US have continued to export to South Africa on the basis of compartmentalization and regionalization programmes that allow for poultry imports to be facilitated in those regions that are certified as disease-free.

In the same vein, South Africa can still export its poultry on the same basis, if such arrangements can satisfy the requirements of its foreign markets. So the impacts of the local HPAI outbreaks on South Africa’s poultry exports might not be as bad as potentially envisaged.

With one percent of local production reportedly affected by HPAI, effective disease control measures which prevent the spread of the disease can ensure that local production will not be adversely affected. Since most of South Africa’s poultry imports are already high, the supply side will not undergo a structural change significant enough to cause substantial movements in the local consumer price

Meanwhile, the structure of South Africa’s imports over the past six months seems to have shifted to a new equilibrium, with a readjustment that has seen some degree of substitution between competing suppliers of the country’s imports. The US seems to have replaced some of South Africa’s poultry imports from Argentina, Brazil and other HPAI-affected key supplier markets in the EU.

With this evolving structure in South Africa’s poultry imports, the flow of imports will expectedly remain stable, without any drastic shifts in import volumes – assuming that safeguards extended beyond their six-month lifespan, which was supposed to have lapsed early July 2017.

The bans that have been effected on South Africa by other regional markets will not affect the country’s poultry imports, not least because imports from African markets are virtually null. Therefore, bans from countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique will have no bearing over South Africa’s import volumes. With a dose of optimism, one can safely assume that South Africa’s poultry production and imports will remain relatively stable – assuming no further shocks happen in the immediate to medium term.

But the story is somewhat different when it comes to poultry exports. South Africa exports an average of around 70,000 tons of poultry per annum, 98% of which go to the very African markets that have implemented bans. In essence, the African market is worth one billion Rand per annum to the poultry sector.

Just how much of this revenue the industry will lose out will largely depend on the willingness of export markets to accept regionalization arrangements, the capacity of which South Africa is able to implement effectively. The emerging concern, in the immediate term, is how further HPAI outbreaks can be contained to prevent further spread to disease-free areas – a situation that will have a direct implication on production and export revenues.

*A version of this article was published in the Farmer’s Weekly Edition of 4 August

So you think you can farm?

 

Very few people would find it odd for an inexperienced and untrained person commits to become a commercial farmer. But they will imagine that a person is insane if they want to be a doctor or a lawyer without any training or experience. There is a general appreciation that one needs dedicated years, if not decades of experience, before they can open a surgery or a practice. Besides, you do not get accredited to practice if you do not have the requisite qualifications in medicine and law. It is that accreditation which is the currency they use to gain the trust of their clientele, who in turn, pay a premium as a vote of confidence in their expertise and ability to deliver a service.

But why is farming not viewed in the same light?  Why is it an exception? There is a general lack of appreciation that agriculture is as extremely complex and technical an activity as medical science or law. But the truth, however, is that it is much more technical than what many of us would like to believe. What makes farming unique is that it is both a science and an art – it is inter-disciplinary in nature, and in many instances, a farmer running a typically mixed enterprise has to be an economist, an animal scientist, an agronomist, and an entrepreneur at one and the same time.

Given the multiple skills set that is required by a typical farmer, how many years of training and experience do you imagine a farmer would need?  Yet farming in general, and smallholder farming in particular, is not viewed as a highly sophisticated field of technical expertise, but rather, as a mundane activity that defines our way of life. It is not lifestyle farming in itself that is a problem, but the emerging complacency that has led to a misplaced view that because of a person’s rural upbringing, they do not necessarily need to embrace many of the technical aspects that make farming a sophisticated science and an art form.

And due to this flawed way of thinking, there is a prevailing rationale – especially within smallholder agriculture – that anyone can be a farmer, and one only needs a piece of land and funding – without any advanced education, nor training, nor business acumen. But which investors, if any, will place trust in this type of new and emerging farmer?

The reluctance to invest money in the emerging farmer is not only restricted to the banks and financial institutions, but also extends to the farmers themselves. I have encountered prospective farmers who expect others to invest in ideas and farming projects that they themselves are not prepared to invest in, using whatever meagre resources they may have at their own disposal.

** A version of this article was published in the Farmer’s Weekly of the 10th June 2017

Will Africa “seize the moment” this time around? A critique of Africa’s Green Revolution Forum Annual Meeting

The 2017 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Annual Meeting  will be held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 4th to 8th September 2017, under the theme “Accelerating Africa’s Path to Prosperity: Growing Inclusive Economies and Jobs through Agriculture”.

The 2016 AGRF Annual Meeting was held in Nairobi Kenya and was lauded as one of the most successful gatherings – mainly because the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta dedicated an unusual and considerable  amount of time in attendance.  He seemed eager to engage delegates and contributed a lot more to the programme  than any other  Head of State that had hosted previous AGRF meetings.

Also present was Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and former Presidents of Nigeria and Tanzania – President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Jakaya Kikwete. The presence of current and previous Heads of States was a big deal, and the excitement and euphoria at the meeting was well justified given the presence of such high profile political figures.

Beyond this massive political support was a number of high profile delegates from research and development institutions, as well as private sector companies, and an array of Africa’s finest talent in agriculture gracing the event. The event was an amazing spectacle, and it was aptly themed “Seize the moment…”. The question is: did Africa seize the moment, OR was the AGRF meeting yet another talk show in which Africa engages in lip service, while we remind each other of how the continent is failing to realize its potential?

Events of this nature follow a familiar script. Delegates come, delegates speak, and delegates go back to their respective places of business. The “high profile” speakers rehash the well-known and oft-repeated challenges of low productivity, poverty and hunger, lack of political will…and so forth and so on. When all is said and done, the meetings provide very little in terms of substance and tangible solutions. This has happened all too often, to the extent that such events have become opportunities for some delegates to vent their own frustration over the continent’s lack of progress.

An example is a 2015 speech given by Ibrahim Mayaki – the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) – at the 11th CAADP Partnership Platform meeting in Johannesburg. Mayaki lambasted Africa’s body politic for pontificating agriculture development without any meaningful action on the ground.

Mayaki understood the shortcomings of politics all too well – he previously served as Prime Minister of Niger from 1997 – 2000 and knew the lack of sincerity of politicians when it comes to agricultural development. His key message was clear: African politicians have fallen into a misguided paradigm of thinking that they can speak their way towards agricultural transformation. “It is not talking that will resolve the problems, its action – its actual policy reforms and effective implementation thereof” Mayaki retorted .

Coming back to the AGRF Annual Meeting, the question then is: Did Africa seize the moment when current and former presidents who were in attendance tried, yet again, to “talk us out of poverty, food insecurity and low productivity”. Did we take the opportunity at the AGRF to remind Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame that they cannot simply come and talk Africa into agricultural transformation, but rather, demonstrate to us how they are formulating and implementing credible agricultural policies that seeks to achieve a Green Revolution for Africa?

After the “feel-good” factor of their presence wore out, I was keen on seeing a robust engagement between the Heads of States and the collective of the continent’s critical thinkers to debate some of the more pressing questions around how they see Africa’s transformation evolving over the next decade. But we never got to that point. Instead, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that he was a proud part-time poultry farmer – much to the applause of the audience. That made me even more incensed.

Not only was President Uhuru Kenyata and Paul Kagame going to give us a talk show – which was televised live on one of Kenya’s local channels, but the AGRF was collectively endorsing the misguided notion that Africa’s hunger and food insecurity will be resolved by part-time farmers. It is not the first time I have seen politicians profess their passion for agriculture, and attempt to make this point by proudly stating that they are part-time farmers.

Anecdotal evidence and in certain instances, main stream media has reported that politicians and technocrats who work in government on the one hand and act as part-time farmers on the other, often use their influence in government to re-direct state resources for the benefit of their part-time farming activities. This is a classic case of conflict of interest.

Empirical research by Dr. Antony Chapoto from the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) has shown the emergence of this farming class in Zambia –  with supporting evidence which also shows that state-sponsored (or donor-sponsored) input subsidies programmes are subject to wide-spread “soft” corruption.

The most vulnerable resource-poor smallholder farmers, who are supposed to be the target of these subsidies, do not get them because they do not have any political influence. The only way the marginalised resource poor farmers can benefit from government programmes is for them to offer political support to these governments, and join the gravy train of corruption. This morphs into a state-to-government patronage network of resource pillage and the looting of the state. So next time politicians confess their conflict of interest, the most prudent thing to do is to question their integrity.

But the broader question transcends President Uhuru Kenyatta’s confession, and should be asked within the context of Africa’s agricultural development model. Is the Green Revolution for Africa going to be driven by politicians cum part-time farmers? Are we as a continent seriously thinking that we can feed the world through governance structures and political systems that are open to state-sponsored corruption and resource pillage, and systems that will systematically marginalises the most resource poor farmers?

Since the 2016 meeting never bothered to question the politicians on this issue, the AGRF was another “missed opportunity” rather than a “moment seized”. Perhaps this policy and governance question can be interrogated further at the 2017 edition of the AGRF Annual Meeting. But are we courageous enough to confront politicians about their bad corporate governance and policy delinquency when it comes to agricultural development?

I know some of my colleagues will  be too afraid to upset the politicians, and some will argue that the Meeting is itself not an “ideal” platform to get into some of those very uncomfortable debates. But I think we can only seize the moment if we are brave enough to confront the politicians, and demand accountable and credible policies.

Why South Africa’s Border Management Authority Act will face implementation challenges

The Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, formerly called the Border Management Agency Bill was finally passed in Parliament on the 8th June 2017. The BMA Act’s main aim is to provide a single authority that will tighten the country’s border by preventing illicit trade of goods and services, as well as illegal immigration.

The BMA Act will create an Agency that deals specifically with cross-border functions. Because cross-border functions are dealt with by different departments and organs of state, the Agency would necessarily constitute personnel from various Departments, who would be re-deployed. According to the Act, the BMA will have jurisdiction over a 10-km radius of the ports and points of entry, with enforcement functions designated to Border and Coastal Guard security forces specifically commissioned for and by the BMA.

The BMA Act is important to agriculture and agro-processing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it means that all border functions carried out by the line Departments such as the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Department of Health, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), the South Africa Revenue Services (SARS), among others, will now come under the BMA.

Secondly, the transfer of these border functions means that at least 56 pieces of legislation will need to be amended and re-constituted so that the functions of relevant Departments are legally transferred to and placed under the authority of the Agency. A number of these acts affect agriculture, and these include the Agricultural Pests Act, 1983 (Act No. 36 of 1983), the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990 (Act No.119 of 1990), the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act No. 35 of 1984), the Animal Health Act, 2002 (Act No.7 of 2002), Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act, 1974 (Act No. 36 of 1947), Perishable Products Export Control Act, 1984 (Act No. 9 of 1983), among several others.

Thirdly, the amendments made to relevant legislation will imply that expertise and human resources will also be transferred from line Departments to the BMA. It is reported that at least 6,000 civil servants will be affected by the transfer of functions from various Departments to the BMA. The process of establishing the BMA is estimated to take up to three years.

While the BMA Act’s intended function is plausible, there are several problems that it might create for South Africa’s agricultural sector. For instance, the funding required to establish the BMA will be exceptionally costly. According to an economic impact assessment report commissioned by the Department of Home Affairs, the costs of establishing a Border Guard (i.e. Coastal or marine guard, including a border police force) for the BMA was estimated to be between R15 billion to R24 billion.

Another problem the Act creates is that it will most likely create a disconnect between the policy makers in line Departments in Pretoria and the enforcement that occurs at the border. This complication will arise from the fact that, the functions to be transferred from various departments to the BMA at the ports of entry will not remove the responsibility of the Department itself from formulating policies, which are expected to be enforced by BMA staff.

Related to the latter, the BMA will therefore create a new layer of bureaucracy that adds to the costs of cross-border trade, and consequently, acting against progressive trade facilitation.  

One of the suggestions that had been made by private sector during the consultation phase of the Bill was that the problem of coordination between government departments – which the BMA seeks to resolve – could have easily been resolved through inter-departmental MoUs, service level agreements and an inter-ministerial committee, rather than a substantive piece of costly and disruptive legislation.

* An earlier version of this article was published in the Farmer’s Weekly

South Africa’s agricultural sector: The story so far…

Often said is the statement that the macroeconomic standing of the agricultural sector has diminished – and this argument is supported by the sector’s declining share of GDP, which fell from 4.2% in the 1996 to 2.3% in 2015. What is not captured in this narrative, however, is the fact that the value of the agricultural sector has grown by 40%, from R50.5 billion to R71.4 billion over the same period. This translates to a fairly modest annual growth rate of 2.1% per annum over the past two decades.

The modest growth of the sector explains why agriculture’s relative share to the economy has been declining. It is because other sectors, particularly the services sector, have grown at a faster pace from a much higher base.

At this juncture, the sector has just come out of one of the worst droughts in history, following two consecutive years of progressively drier seasons. As a result, the period 2015 through 2016 saw the agricultural sector enter into a protracted recession, enduring eight consecutive quarter-on-quarter GDP declines over the period.

The contraction of the sector has been observed through a number of commodities – for instance, maize production declined by 30% year-on-year (YoY) in 2015, and by a further 22% YoY in 2016, to reach 7.8 million tons, the lowest output in a decade. Sorghum touched its lowest level on record, while high value commodities such as peanuts reached their lowest level in seven decades.

Overall agricultural exports declined by 10% YoY in 2015, and then further by 1% YoY in 2016, in real terms. However, the trade balance for the sector remained positive, as agricultural exports continued to trend above imports.

On the back of the impact of the weather, the sector has been in a perpetual state of uncertainty, emanating from a lack of clear and consistent policy direction. The country’s politics has, by and large, contributed to this policy vagueness and inconsistency, which has been exemplified by land reform policy discussions – with mentions of expropriation without compensation, land ceilings etc. – all of which add weight to uncertainty, and in turn affect production and investment decisions.

In 2017, we are seeing signs of a strong production recovery across all agricultural commodities in the country, with the exception of the Western Cape province, where dry conditions have persisted for some time.

For instance, South Africa is expected to harvest the second largest maize crop on record, estimated at 14.5 million tons – which is an YoY increase of 86%. The soybean crop is expected to increase by 66% YoY to reach 1.2 million tons, the highest output in history.

Even though a strong recovery is expected, there are concerns that it may be short-lived as the risks to El Nino are set to increase the possibility of dryness towards the end of the year.

Amid the uncertainty posed by domestic factors – such as politics, policy, and weather events –  the country’s trade policy has presented both opportunities and threats to the industry.

One the one hand, the SACU-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has seen South Africa’s market access being expanded for fresh fruit, sugar, wine, and ethanol – among other agricultural products. However, as the United Kingdom (UK) negotiates to leave the EU, there is some degree of uncertainty over the impact of the Brexit negotiated deal on South Africa’s market access to the UK, post 2018.The UK represents a quarter of the value of South Africa’s fruit and wine exports to the EU, respectively. However, a SACU-UK transitional arrangement could potentially see an expansion of South Africa’s fresh fruit and wines in the UK.

On the other hand, the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) has seen a continued growth of South Africa’s exports of macadamia, citrus fruit and wine, among other products to the United States (US). Additional market access for other commodities for South Africa – such as avocadoes, litchis, and lamb – are expected to become eligible for export in the near term.

The AGOA poultry rebate which came into effect in December 2015 has seen South Africa importing 56 700 tons of bone-in chicken from the US between January 2016 and March 2017. Nonetheless, South Africa has imported 47 000 tons in the first annual quota – between 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017. Even though the 65 000 tons AGOA rebate for US bone-in chicken, is subject to an annual adjustment, the quota will not growth over the period 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018.

Over the foreseeable future, South Africa’s agricultural sector will continue to operate within the context of increasing uncertainty due to policy, politics, climate change, as well as global trade developments. The performance of the sector in 2017-18 production season will depend on the interplay of the aforementioned factors.

**This article was based on a presentation made to the IDC by Wandile Sihlobo and I on the 18th May 2017 in Sandton, Johannesburg

Import Tariffs Aren’t Just Set Up To Protect Commercial Farmers At The Expense Of The Poor – A Response To Neva Makgetla

The issue of rising food prices has been at the core of the policy discourse for some time, particularly over the past year when the country experienced a perfect storm of a severe drought, and a volatile plus depreciating Rand. South Africa became a net importer of staple grains – such as maize and wheat – and we imported almost a third of our annual maize consumption and half of our wheat. The high level of staple grain imports exposed the market to the exchange rate shocks, which re-enforced the impact of rising food prices.

As food security is an issue of national interest, all citizens are naturally inclined to understand the fundamental drivers of the significant price increases we have witnessed thus far. But in our desire to understand the subject matter, it remains important to appreciate the complexity of food markets, particularly as it relates to price discovery and tariff formulation.

In that spirit, we want to address the fundamental flaws of Neva Makgetla’s argument contained in an article published in the Business Day of the 9th May 2017. In her view, Neva accuses government, farmers, farmer and trader organisations, and private companies’ of being complicit in authoring and sustaining food price increases – through price collusion and the setting of exorbitant import tariffs.

This, of course, is a serious allegation. If that were the case, or if Neva had evidence that large grain traders are having considerable influence on prices, surely the Competition Commission would have observed these tendencies and launched an investigation. Since that has not happened, Neva’s assertions are unsubstantiated claims.

With regards to tariffs, it is important to note that this is a matter of global significance, and South Africa is not the only country that has used tariffs to ensure sustainability of domestic production.

Neva’s arguments demonstrates a clear lack of appreciation of the tariff formulation process itself. Government does not wake up and decide to implement a particular tariff level. There is an intensive, evidence-based, and transparent public consultation process that is conducted by the International Trade and Administration Commission (ITAC) – which ensures that all views of the role players in the food value chain are captured in the tariff decision.

Such processes and decisions can take months, or even years, to complete, and all decisions are carefully crafted to ensure a balanced outcome of consumer and producer welfare. Moreover, decisions related to trade instruments such as tariffs are subject to compliance with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, and anyone who is familiar with the process will know that ITAC does not just give favourable decisions to commercial farmers. There are many reviews in the past in which tariff investigations have either led to lower-than-requested tariffs, or worse, tariff applications being rejected outright.

For Neva to now suggest that these tariffs are put in place to favour farmers at the expense of the poor is not only a blatant disregard of the enormous and complex work that is done by ITAC, but also an attack on the integrity of state institutions that are playing a vital social function.

Neva furthers her conspiracy theory by questioning the integrity of agricultural markets in price discovery, and indirectly alleging that the South African Grain Information Service is deliberately and selectively concealing domestic price information with the sole intent of covering up the grain price increases.

If Neva had cared to check the SAGIS website, Grain South Africa, and the primary source – the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, she would have known before she penned her allegations in a national newspaper that this statement is incorrect. With all price information publicly available, it is irresponsible of Neva to make innuendos that play into the fears of the public, using incorrect statements.

Neva also makes an inaccurate statement when she says tariffs are sustaining trading companies. Tariffs add no value to the business of traders, as these tariffs (taxes) are collected by government, and not by traders.

Generally, Neva’s reductionist views on tariffs and food markets show that she has no comprehension of commercial agriculture in general, and the global trading system in particular. For her to suggest that South Africa should give up its right to protect its own productive capacity and food self-sufficiency is absurd. Without tariffs, the wheat, chicken and sugar industries will collapse, not because we cannot competitively produce, but because there is so much distortion in the global market – everyone else is protecting their own and there is no reason why South Africa shouldn’t. Neva, of course, conveniently omits this part of the argument.

Given the nature of global agriculture and food markets, the conversation about tariffs should not consider food prices in isolation, but rather, it should take into account the number of jobs and productive capacity lost if we do not have a balanced tariff decision.

*This article was published in the Huffington Post on the 10th May 2017 by Wandile Sihlobo and I.