The economic discussion document released by the Treasury last week is a welcome statement of intent, particularly the proposed R6bn increase in agricultural exports over the next 10 years.
What we need to see now is the road map to achieving this export target, and a clear and concerted effort to clear away the bureaucratic obstacles that stand in the way.
We in the berry industry have seen global demand for blueberries rocket in the last few years, particularly in China, where the market is enormous. In China, blueberries are so popular that they have replaced popcorn as the nation’s favourite snack in cinemas. But SA lacks access to key markets such as China while blueberry imports are growing phenomenally in these markets.
In China, blueberry imports grew from 2,400 tons in 2013 to more than 12,000 tons by 2017.
China imports its berries mainly from Chile and Peru. SA should be competing directly with these countries, but we cannot because of the inordinate amount of time it takes for export protocols to be finalised by the SA government.
We are stuck in a queue behind a range of other fruits due to the department of agriculture’s so-called “one-fruit” policy.
We calculate that at the rate we are going it will take until 2045 to get market access to China. This will not help Tito Mboweni achieve his target of a R6bn boost in agricultural exports in the next decade.
If the government is serious about reaching these targets and creating thousands of jobs, it needs to start fast-tracking market access for agricultural goods that are in high global demand.
SA Berry Producers Association