Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Raisin Conference in Cape Town.
To our international guests: Welcome to South Africa, welcome to the Western Cape Province, and welcome to the most beautiful city in the world. I have learned that there are representatives from as far as the USA; Turkey; Argentina; India; Australia and Chile. This is truly a global gathering of diverse people.
I hope you will enjoy your stay and have enough time to relax and enjoy all we have to offer in South Africa. South Africa is a country of diversity. We have diversity in our natural beauty. We also have diversity in our people, and this makes us a truly unique and vibrant society.
Agriculture is the foundation of the Western Cape economy. It contributes significantly to our export earnings and it creates jobs and opportunities for our people in the Province. The Western Cape Government is of opinion that economic growth facilitates social development. And economic growth is the business of the private sector. Government’s role is to create the enabling environment for business to prosper.
With this in mind, we recently hosted an Agricultural Summit in Stellenbosch, where senior government officials met with stakeholders in the private agricultural sector in order to determine the future path of our Provincial agricultural sector. A few of the key points that came out at the Summit included the affirmation of our Agricultural Department’s strategic goals:
- We need a 10% growth in production over the next 10 years.
- We need to maintain or increase our export profile.
- We need a 60% success rate for our agricultural empowerment projects.
- We need to create the enabling environment for investment in especially our rural areas.
The Summit also highlighted the importance of the African market for our produce, but also for the opportunities it holds for our agricultural expertise to develop. It was stated that 60% of the entire world’s undeveloped agricultural land is in Africa, south of the Sahara.
I also challenged the different commodities in our Province (These include wine, fruit, dairy, grain vegetables and meat) to refocus their attention on agro processing. We need a stronger focus on value-adding. This, together with increased production, will stimulate more job opportunities and economic growth for the Province.
The business of dried fruit is a very good example of adding value to an agricultural product. It is also a product well suited to our climatic conditions. (Climate change is predicted to make the Western Cape hotter and drier, so that must be good news for the fruit drying industry)
If we can also stimulate production growth, more value adding and also new markets for dried fruit, and then specifically for raisins, it will be to the benefit of the entire Province. I have already committed my Department to relevant research in order to achieve our goals. Please communicate with me if there are any specific issues in your industry that needs research attention.
I want to conclude, please use this opportunity to generate positive and innovative ideas for the advancement of your industry. You have enough diversity from across the world gathered here to have a very successful conference.