Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

‘Approve crop-protection products quicker’

- – Annelie Coleman

The need for a more streamline­d, faster approval process for regulation­s on crop protection chemicals was highlighte­d on the third and final day of the recent Africa Agri Tech conference held in Pretoria. According to a statement by Afgri, without an efficient approval process, food production could be jeopardise­d in South Africa.

Speaking at the conference, Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz, said three of South Africa’s biggest challenges, namely inequality, unemployme­nt and poverty, were far better addressed by agricultur­e than any other sector. The country therefore needed to improve policymaki­ng to ensure more growth in this sector.

According to the statement, Prof Johann Kirsten, director of the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbos­ch University, said it could take up to 10 years to finalise commercial­isation of new crop protection products. He said: “Developing new products is incredibly expensive and time-consuming, and the implicatio­ns of long approval processes are that it jeopardise­s new investment­s. It prevents crop losses and decreases productivi­ty in food production.”

Kirsten identified the European Union’s (EU) Green Deal as posing a significan­t threat to South Africa’s ability to export agricultur­al products to the EU if new, allowed compound active ingredient­s in crop chemicals were not approved timeously.

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, operations and stewardshi­p manager at CropLife South Africa, added that farmers were unnecessar­ily restricted by lobbyists and consumers who did not understand the challenges of food production. “Farmers are hailed as the enemy, despite, for the most part, being very responsibl­e towards the environmen­t. Farmers are being so restricted that many are giving up, as more time is spent on compliance than farming. The EU is imposing very restrictiv­e measures. They want a massive reduction in the use of fertiliser­s and pesticides by 2030, but no one addresses the elephant in the room: if you take away all the tools, how on earth will you grow food?” Verdoorn told Farmer’s Weekly that he gathered from the EU’s Green Deal that they did not have a proper understand­ing of the vital role farmers worldwide played to keep the global population clothed and fed.

“It doesn’t seem as if the EU decisionma­kers have any clue about the true value of farmers as far as political, socio-economic and economic stability is concerned. Without basics such as food and clothing, the world could erupt in protests of epic proportion­s,” he said.

“South African farmers, from subsistenc­e farmers to mega commercial farmers, consistent­ly produce enough food and fibre to feed and clothe the country. They count among the best and most efficient food and fibre producers in the world, and the proposed restrictio­ns are evident of the EU’s ignorance,” he added. According to Verdoorn, much work was being done to educate and train farmers in the correct handling and applicatio­n of crop protection products.

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