March 28, 2024

Embrace Science for SA Agri Growth

Wandile Sihlobo

For South Africa’s agriculture to thrive globally, it must stay updated with the latest in seed breeding and agrochemicals. These elements often go unnoticed by the public eye, overshadowed by the final products like crop yield and animal health.

Over the years, South Africa’s agricultural sector has seen remarkable growth, thanks to increased exports and the adoption of high-yielding seed varieties and agrochemicals. This technological embrace has boosted crop yields, making South Africa stand out among its African neighbours.

Given the challenges posed by climate change and shifting geopolitical landscapes, investing in scientific advancements is crucial for ensuring food security. While government spending on research and development has declined, the private sector has stepped up, contributing significantly to agricultural innovation.

However, regulatory bodies like the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development must expedite the evaluation and registration process for new agrochemicals and seeds. This should be done without bureaucratic delays, as science demands clarity and efficiency.

The primary focus should be on improving the health, sustainability, and competitiveness of South African agriculture. Regulators must engage with input providers and private sector researchers to ensure alignment with modern standards and practices.

Legislation such as Act 36 of 1947, which governs the registration of fertilizers, farm feeds, seeds, and remedies, needs to be updated to reflect current scientific understanding and technological advancements.
Recent shifts in the European Union’s approach to agricultural science, particularly regarding New Genomic Techniques (NGTs), highlight the importance of staying ahead in regulatory frameworks. South Africa should reassess its regulations to support a vibrant and competitive agricultural sector.

The insights presented here are drawn from a report by Wandile Sihlobo, Chief Economist at Agbiz, the Agricultural Business Chamber. Emphasizing the significance of embracing scientific progress, this report underscores the imperative for South Africa to update its regulatory frameworks to align with global standards. By doing so, South Africa can continue to foster innovation and maintain its position as a leading agricultural producer on the world stage.