Food security top for Brics nations

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mbombela - Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says Brics member countries have put food security at the top of the agenda ahead of the all-important summit in Durban.

She was addressing the Brics summit roadshow in Mbombela on Monday, which aims to raise awareness ahead of the upcoming Brics summit at the Durban International Convention Centre in KwaZulu-Natal on March 26 and 27.

She said food security was important to the member countries, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and the country had a lot to offer.

“Mpumalanga is the province with the most fertile agricultural point. You have the highest potential for commercial agriculture… 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 Walmart to buy food 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 a form of juice, jam or anything which is needed by the world. It must be processed here,” said Joemat-Pettersson.

Joemat-Pettersson said 30% of the global territory was occupied by Brics nations.

“And the current state of global affairs requires that we look for other markets,” she said.

The minister urged South Africans to learn from Brazil how they were able 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 and that has brought a better level of nutrition to the people of Brazil,” said Joemat-Petterson.

She added that other countries had a lot to teach South Africa when it comes to business.

“What we learned from 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 bringing a partner and a competitor,” said Joemat-Petterson.

South Africa officially became a member of Brics on 24 December 2010, after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group.

South Africa’s position going into the summit is to align Brics member countries' interests in supporting the integration agenda in Africa, and not just focusing on access to the country’s resources. –