Western Cape Discusses Agricultural Matters with the British Government
Gerrit van Rensburg, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, yesterday held a meeting on invitation from the British Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice, as part of a one-week visit to the United Kingdom. "We discussed Western Cape-UK trade relations, and how we could improve our long-standing relationship," van Rensburg said.
According to van Rensburg, South African fruit producers were often left at the mercy of unscrupulous buying practices used by some UK importers. "I conveyed the local industry's concern to the British Minister in this regard, and also discussed possible solutions that would be to the benefit of both parties for long-term business sustainability."
Van Rensburg presented Paice with a document, drafted by Fruit South Africa, highlighting the problems faced by the South African producers. Paice said the UK is in the process of drafting legislation that would allow for the appointment of an adjudicator to look into these issues.
Paice presented van Rensburg with a UK report on the regulation of farming and food businesses as part of a drive to reduce red tape in their agricultural sector. Van Rensburg said the Western Cape Province is conducting a similar exercise, and is aiming to replace red tape with a red carpet for business. "We will be able to learn from your experience," he said.
Van Rensburg's visit to the UK kicked off with the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday (23/05). The Western Cape government rescued this year's event when no other support was forthcoming. The Western Cape government is a main sponsor for this year's exhibition. "South Africa received its 31st gold medal, and this year we also used flowers from empowerment projects to achieve this goal," van Rensburg said.
He said the exposure South Africa receives during the Chelsea Show is great value for money. "Many people who visited our stand expressed a desire to come and experience the natural wonders South Africa has on offer. This is obviously a tremendous boost and opportunity for our tourism industry."
Van Rensburg is accompanied in the UK by Edwin Gouws, a trustee of Mountain Dew empowerment flower farm, and Dorah Siduka, a line manager from Fynsa, a fynbos packing shed. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture is sponsoring their trip, as part of the Department's Market Access Programme. "We need to expose our new farmers and farm workers to the markets where their products have to compete, as this assists them in being more competitive," van Rensburg said.