Interview with the Consul-General of South Africa in Italy

What interest does South Africa have towards organic products and towards B/Open?

As the middle class in South Africa grows, the demand for organic produce is growing. Although it is not a formalised sector in South Africa there are a number of emerging producers who are catering to the organic market. As a country, we would like to grow the sector and showcase produce globally that is healthy, organic and delicious.
Europe has a well-developed organic sector and it therefore provides an opportunity for South Africa to learn from the experiences and expertise of European producers in the development of the sector in South Africa.

Considering the new post-Covid conditions how do you think trade relations between Italy and South Africa can grow in the organics sector?

With the current Covid pandemic there has been a significant slowdown in the global economy and manufacturing output has decreased. However, people still need to eat and co-operation in the import of agricultural produce can be seen as a growth sector for our two economies.
Activities that we do now will allow us to be prepared for the post-Covid world, whenever that may occur. In establishing contacts with producers, distributors and buyers now we can ensure that growth can occur when we reach the post-Covid stage.

Organic products are at the centre of European Commission policies for the coming years. What direction has South Africa taken and will take in the organic sector? Are there facilitations, incentives or particular policies for the sector? Do you support only production processes or have you adopted support measures even for exports?

The promotion of the Organic and Natural Ingredient sectors is one of the objectives in the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) for its potential to spur economic growth and create sustainable employment because of its strong backward linkage with the primary agricultural sector.
The nature of support of the sector in terms of market access is through the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic). The services and offerings provided by the Export Development, Promotion and Outward Investment division of the dtic include: gathering of market intelligence; identifying markets with potential and export opportunities through the Market Diversification Strategy; matching potential exporters with foreign buyers and providing in-market support; providing export advisory services and export market information; providing market access through National Pavilions, Outward Selling Missions, Inward Buying Missions as well as Investment and Trade Initiatives; providing financial assistance through the Export Marketing and Incentive Assistance (EMIA).
Some produce in South Africa that may have been produced organically are not labelled as such due to the regulations involved that lead to increased costs and therefore some farmers opt to not label their produce as organic in order to avoid the burden of the regulatory requirements.

What area of land is cultivated with an organic regime? What is the extension, average prices or organic agricultural and agro-food products compared to conventional ones in South Africa?
South Africa is still working on the collection of data that can produce formal statistics and create an organic policy.
In terms of costing and affordability, unfortunately organic produce in South Africa is considered a luxury and is found in predominantly wealthy homes and grocery stores which is a significant challenge in South Africa.

How is the organics sector evolving and what are producers aiming at in South Africa? One of the most dynamic segments is organic wine. Is this true also for your country?
The value of the South African organic market has been estimated to be worth over ZAR 200 million across all categories of produce. Over the last 15 years, organic agriculture has fought for its rightful place in all aspects of South African society and is achieving success by gaining recognition. This is supported by the population’s increasing awareness for healthy lifestyles and the growing middle class.
South African organic producers offer a large variety of products including various cereals, vegetables, roots and tubers, herbs and spices, fruits, nuts, rooibos tea & natural ingredients.
The largest fruit crops in terms of hectares are bananas, avocado pears and mangoes, while the largest vegetable crops are cucurbits, tomatoes, asparagus, brassicas and potatoes. Organic wine, olive oil & essential oils are also being produced. Organic dairy farming is also growing a comparative advantage in some provinces in South Africa.

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