Large-scale, scientific farming is the only viable model for South Africa, mostly owing to significant and rising input costs, necessitating a move towards high-value export products, says industry body the South African Irrigation Institute (Sabi) technical executive officer Isobel van der Stoep.
Meanwhile, South African expertise is increasingly sought after by neighbouring countries wanting to establish large-scale agricultural developments.
“South Africa has extensively developed agricultural land and well-developed water schemes. Most of the developments of large-scale cash crops, such as maize and wheat, will extend north of the Limpopo river. This is where the new large-scale developments have the potential to take place,” she mentions, adding that there is also more water in countries north and east of South Africa’s borders.
In South Africa, producers who do not farm on economically viable land, with the exception of producers with high-value crops, will not succeed. This is partly due to the increasing input costs of farming, Van der Stoep notes.
“Further, only commercial farming enterprises have the necessary capital and knowledge to combat land degradation and to investigate the applicability of new green farming technologies,” she states.
The production of cash crops will most likely extend into the rest of Africa, owing to the availability of land, water and cheaper labour; while production for niche markets and high-value crops is increasingly important in the South African context, Van der Stoep reveals.