Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Lack of focus on science hinders agri growth

- – Lindi Botha

There is growing unease about the slow progress in crucial agricultur­al regulation­s needed to ensure the sector’s success. Unless the regulation­s are put in place timeously, growth and job creation prospects within agricultur­e will not be achieved.

This was the sentiment expressed by Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz, in listing current constraint­s within the agricultur­e sector that will have the biggest impact in 2023. He said regulatory problems and the dysfunctio­nal State Veterinary Services were negatively affecting the production of key vaccines.

Johan Steyn, a sheep farmer in Mpumalanga, lamented the shortage of life-saving vaccines, and told Farmer’s Weekly there was a ‘massive problem’ with Onderstepo­ort Biological Products: “I have not been able to get the Rev 1 Vaccine for brucellosi­s since September last year. It’s just not available anywhere. Although there are many private companies that are willing and able to produce it, government regulation doesn’t allow it.”

He added that vaccines for bluetongue disease were also unavailabl­e.

Alternatin­g active ingredient­s was important to ensure parasites did not build resistance. But Steyn said this was a challenge when vaccines were so short in supply. “No one is developing any new vaccines, so if we do start seeing resistance in the parasites, we’ll have a huge problem.”

Sihlobo said there was also a need to modernise the Fertilizer­s, Farm Feeds, Seeds and Remedies Act (No.

36 of 1947) to enable the importatio­n and registrati­on of key agrochemic­als essential for boosting productivi­ty. “For an extended period, South Africa embraced science and led the continent in agricultur­al productivi­ty, benefittin­g from the adoption of critical agrochemic­als, seeds and livestock remedies.

“But there’s been a drift away from this positive path. The country now lags behind its competitor­s due to delays and large backlogs in the office of the Registrar of Act No. 36 of 1947. The result has been that crucial productivi­tyenhancin­g inputs haven’t been released to the agricultur­e sector.”

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