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Soldiering on

In a TED talk Julian Treasure (a sound consultant) once referred to complaining as the national sport of the UK: “We complain about the weather, sport, about politics, about everything …”

I reckon that the opposite is true for South Africans. As mentioned in a past editorial (and at the risk of generalising), South Africans know how to look on the bright side, even under the grimmest of circumstances. The most recent major setback came in the form of travel bans introduced (rather unfairly) by the international community, all because SA was transparent about having detected the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country. And even though travel bans have now been eased by some countries, the economic repercussions for red-listed countries like SA will linger. More about that in the foreword on pg. 4.

Talking about unfairness, in SA agriculture is arguably amongst the most vilified, compared to mining, transport, energy, manufacturing and tourism. The sector has borne the brunt of historic racism, gender inequity and general injustice; as well as political policy that is largely not conducive to sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

But there is so much to be said about the often-unsung contribution of this vital economic sector, which is typically SA’s biggest employer of labour and capital. In Q3 2021 the agricultural sector reflected 829 000 for employment, up by 3% y/y (Stats SA). And in 2020 the fruit industry alone supplied over 275 000 direct jobs. The citrus sector exported 162 million cartons in 2021 (a record, up by 19 million from 2020), apple and pear exports reflected a 9% annual increase, and the table grape sector packed nearly 75 million cartons of grapes for the 2020/21 season.

Great power does however, come with great responsibility. And for the agricultural sector sustaining food security is a case in point. Not forgetting the sector’s role regarding environmental sustainability. In that vein, this iteration of our plastics series highlights the latest legislation pertaining to plastics usage that stands to impact the fresh produce industry significantly, and explores outcomes of the SA Plastics Pact Baseline Report (SA’s fruit industry is a supporting member of the pact).

Also in this edition, we explore the efficacy of fruit fly trapping systems, water stress and sunburn, innovation in the future of farming, land development support, and we highlight industry actions against gender-based violence. As we continue to soldier on, on our personal and professional journeys (and as an industry), let’s not lose sight of what we’ve achieved along the way – individually and as a collective. All of the best for 2022!

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