SA producers call on govt to prioritize horticulture in BRICS summits

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SA producers call on govt to prioritize horticulture in BRICS summits

South African fruit producers are urging the country's government to take horticulture more seriously in future Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) discussions.

The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) pressed the government at last week's Agricultural Trade Forum to move agriculture higher up the agenda at future BRICS meetings.

CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick said South Africa's agricultural representative at last month's  BRICS meeting in New Delhi was ill-informed and "didn’t have a clue" about the country's horticultural issues.

"It's a case of priorities within government as to where their efforts are. They are keen on manufacturing and IT and mining. We would like them to have agriculture as an important theme and put forward the right people to talk about it," he said.

Hortgro executive director Anton Rabe echoed CGA's sentiments.

"I think the noise we get is that agriculture is important but when it comes to these discussion and government representation when accessing markets it doesn't seem to materialize."

Chadwick would like South Africa to develop the export opportunities within BRICS to see what trading is taking place, who is operating, how they are doing it and what lessons can be learnt.

"The fruit industries see huge potential for expanding exports into Russia, India and China – in fact the future of the sector probably lies in developing these markets. And expanding the fruit industry means more jobs, reduced rural poverty, increased foreign exchange earnings and economic growth."

CGA estimates fruit exports accounted for half of all South Africa's ZAR1.5 billion (US$191 million) exports to Russia.

Hortgro 2011-12 figures show significant stone exports to Hong Kong of 160,371 metric tons (MT) of plums and prunes,  25,132MTof apricots, 6,138MT of nectarines and 5,943MT of peaches.

Plum and prune exports to India stand at 43,942MT and to Russia 38,925MT with nectarine exports at 347MT for India and 6,100MT for Russia.

Peach and apricot exports to India stand at 268MT and 95MTrespectively.

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