20 March 2013
Food security will be high on the agenda at the 5th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in Durban next week, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said during a roadshow on the summit in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga on Monday.
Food security was an important issue for the BRICS member countries, and South Africa and the continent had a lot to offer in this regard, Joemat-Pettersson said.
“South Africa has become a special interest in all these countries because of our ability to produce food. We have a very excellent and thriving commercial agricultural sector.”
She said that to boost the farming sector, her department was in negotiations with food giant Walmart to buy its farm products from small farmers.
“This is not only for local consumption but also for exporting abroad. We want to make sure that the largest part of the value chain is captured within South Africa.
“Right now when our commodities leave our country, the money which is added is not for us, but for the middle man in processing. For example, we want our bananas to leave South Africa in the form of juice, jam or anything which is needed by the world. It must be processed here,” Joemat-Pettersson said.
The minister urged South Africans to learn from Brazil how to address inequality, unemployment and poverty.
“Brazil had a lot of hungry people to feed, but the president introduced the zero hunger programme and it resulted in fewer and fewer people going to bed hungry. South Africa today has huge farms, people who can export products, but they have very little food security to feed each and every family.
“Currently, 13-million people in South Africa do not have enough food to eat, and what we learned from Brazil is that instead of planting flowers in our backyards, we could start to plant vegetables and fruits.”
She added that other countries had a lot to teach South Africa when it came to doing business.
“What we learned from the BRICS countries is that we can be friends and competitors in a healthy way; we can co-exist with Mozambique and Swaziland to bring about change. Mpumalanga has a lot to offer in terms of being a partner and a competitor.”
The BRICS group of influential emerging economies together represent about 43% of the world’s population and approximately one-fifth of global gross domestic product (GDP).
In 2012, the BRICS countries accounted for approximately 11% of global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows ($465-billion) and about 17% of world trade.
South Africa sees its membership of the grouping as crucial to leveraging economic opportunities for the development of the country and of the continent as a whole, while the country’s BRICS partners view South Africa as a springboard into Africa and a key development partner on the continent.