I’m pleased to be here today to address an industry which is doing important work in moving our economy forward.
You make sure our produce is held to the highest standards. This is why we are able to grow our domestic and international markets.
Red meat exports add billions to the national economy each year and the abattoirs in the province make sure we can sell our produce to the world.
The value of red meat exports from South Africa has risen from R791 million in 2013 to R2.14 billion last year.
By producing and exporting more products to other countries, we are generating more agriculture jobs across the value chain.
In addition, we know the game meat industry also presents additional economic opportunities and we’re pleased that regulations to control the hygienic slaughter of game meat are in the final stages of development. This is a fast-growing, multi-million rand industry.
We prioritise these industries because in the Western Cape, our most urgent goal is ramping up jobs and growth.
Through our Project Khulisa growth strategy we’ve set ourselves the goal of doubling the size of the agri-processing sector and adding up to a further 100 000 jobs to the sector by 2019. The red meat industry is a critical player in helping us achieve this.
One way we’ll reach this target is by increasing demand for our produce locally and by boosting our capacity to process goods for export. I’m happy today to share the steps we are taking to reach our jobs and growth goals.
We know that worldwide there is growing concern around anti-biotic resistance. Agriculture, specifically livestock agriculture, has been cited as a problem area for the abuse of antibiotics as an aid to increase meat production. It is estimated that the 2016/17 financial year it will cost R14 million for routine meat testing.
Our plan to establish a R9 million residue testing facility at our Helderfontein Veterinary Laboratory is on track and should be operationalised later this year. Once live, this facility will serve as a base for the testing requirements of key destinations to which we can export our products, hopefully improving the value and volume of goods we move overseas.
Like residue testing, animal welfare issues are high on the international agenda.
Many importing countries insist that animal welfare officers are permanently stationed at abattoirs and that there is certification of the status of animal welfare in the handling of the livestock at these slaughter facilities. We have identified the need for increased education and awareness in the field of animal welfare to ensure we can maintain the high quality produce we are known for.
In another move to boost health and safety standards, the proposed Independent Meat Inspection Scheme is also in the final stages of development. This scheme will ensure that a Meat Inspector is on the floor throughout the slaughtering process.
At the same time we note the scheme is likely to result in an increased workload on the regulatory role of officials in the Vet Public Health section. We will continue to monitor the situation.
I’m happy to report that we’re already seeing the positive impact of the Compulsory Community Service for newly qualified vets.
This was an initiative of the late Dr Tembile Songabe, the Director of Vet Public Health at DAFF, who had been working towards this for over five years and could fortunately see it come into operation before his passing in May 2016.
We have appointed a number of these CCS vets, primarily at export registered abattoirs. The presence of a permanent vet at these abattoirs has opened up a number of further export markets, whose requirements insist on there being a full time vet present.
While health and safety is of critical importance inside the abattoir, we also know that abattoirs generate significant amounts of waste. Stricter waste management and a shift towards more environmentally friendly business operations means we have had to change how we do things. There are innovative new ways to dispose of abattoir waste, which include composting and anaerobic digestion and biogas production as value-adding alternatives. Our Department of Environmental Affairs would be happy to discuss more of these strategies with you.
It’s not only in the area of waste management that we have to change how we operate environmentally.
Like most industries, you too are impacted by the drought crisis. We’ve seen a steady increase in the price of meat in South Africa. These increases are being driven by feed prices, the exchange rate and the impact of the drought on grazing land. I understand the next speaker, Professor Johan Willemse, will share a detailed overview on the challenges presented to the industry by the drought.
Research and climate change modelling shows annual temperatures are rising and droughts, floods and heat waves will become more regular in the province. These trends highlighted the need for a co-ordinated response from government and the private sector to mitigate the impact of climate change.
SmartAgri, which we formally launched last month, is our comprehensive climate change response plan. SmartAgri sets out a roadmap to combat the impact of extreme weather events on the province’s agriculture sector.
The final assessment, and the mitigating steps it proposes, is the result of two years of extensive collaboration and engagement between the Western Cape Government (specifically the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning), the University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative and a wide range of stakeholders in the private sector.
The final report offers tailored climate change response plans for each of the Western Cape’s key agricultural regions.
To start, the team categorised the different regions of the province’s agriculture sector into 23 “agro-climactic zones”. The plan stipulates the nature of that specific region’s agri-enterprises and the climate challenges which are likely to be experienced in each area.
Using scenario planning, SmartAgri predicts detailed outcomes for a series of possible situations, which include droughts, heat waves and cold spells. The plan explores two scenarios, namely the low road, where climate change mitigation plans are not co-ordinated, and the high road where risks and opportunities are identified and action plans implemented.
In partnership, we can lessen the impact of climate change. I look forward to our continued collaboration in this, and other areas, as we build the country’s most competitive and dynamic agricultural sector.