Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
‘Approve crop-protection products quicker’
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.