Technology and nature
South Africa is the powerhouse of Africa’s food and beverage industry. There are (many) other countries on the African continent with larger populations, others with impressive production of raw fruits and vegetables, but none with such a well-integrated and technologically sophisticated national industry. South Africa exports all over Africa.
It also exports globally. South Africa is an international player in fresh produce, canned fruits, canned fish, frozen products, wine, fruit juices and concentrates, soft drinks, dried fruits (especially vine fruits) and edible nuts. In the southern hemisphere, only Chile can rival it (Australia has a thriving industry, but make a smaller global footprint, really, except in markets like dairy and meat where it and New Zealand are true giants).
South Africa is also blessed with some of the most fertile land on the planet, and a climate that allows it to grow citrus just as readily as peaches, while also supporting a meat and dairy industry. There are changes happening, and more on the way. The land redistribution programme appears to be working reasonably equitably, but there is no way of doing it without at least some pain.
Last year, IEG Vu was in SA and a farmer pointed out an adjacent farm and announced that it had been acquired by a black South African under the programme. “Is he doing a good job?” we asked. There was a pause, and then the reply: “Yes, he is.” On the other hand, there are stories of farms being given to political cronies who are not managing them properly.
It is not the place of IEG to make political comment, though. Our task is to assess and analyse what is happening in agro-industry, and to report accordingly. In this context, South Africa is doing a fantastic job, given the natural obstacles such as long-running drought and the economic ones like inflation and a relatively volatile currency. Its wine industry and the way it markets itself is, in some respects, superior to that of arch-rival Chile. It is expanding its macadamia industry and adding value to what is already a relatively expensive nut. Its fruit farms and processors are absolutely world class. And its soft drinks plants supply most of southern Africa.
We have to remember that (as people in the country pointed out to IEG Vu) while the country has been a superb food producer for decades, centuries, even, its presence on the international market has been relatively brief so far. What it will do in the next 20 years will be fascinating to watch.
Download the full report on South Africa below.