There is a growing sense of unhappiness amongst farmers globally. In Europe, protests against stringent environmental laws, calls for protectionism against imports, and increased producer support are some of the issues farmers continue to highlight.
We now see news of protests in India where farmers demand guaranteed crop prices and increased government support.
These events are far from us in South Africa but have relevance.
The big win for farmers in the EU so far was the agreement by lawmakers to review the environmental policy – with the “Farm to Fork Strategy” — aimed at reducing the use of chemicals and fertilisers, which threaten farmers’ productivity.
These production changes applied not only to EU farmers but also to trading partners such as South Africa. The EU is the second most important market for South Africa’s agricultural products, accounting for 27% of the country’s total agricultural exports. So we welcome the news of a review of the environmental laws.
Still, the rising talk about a need for protectionism in crucial agricultural export markets for South Africa is worrying. We see this reality in the EU. We continue to watch developments in India — hopefully, one won’t see such sentiment of protectionism becoming part of these protests.
South Africa’s agriculture has yet to have a strong presence in India. However, we aim to expand our agricultural footprint there, deepening the relationship in BRICS+ beyond a political ambition to deeper trade engagement in the coming years.
Various member countries widely shared this optimistic sentiment in the BRICS Business Council’s Agribusiness Working Group in 2023. (I chaired the global engagements in this working group in 2023. Russia leads us this year, and I currently chair the Working Group on Agribusiness).
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