NEWS
Quiet Organic Revolution in South Africa

Author: Clare Byrne
South African Press Association . (Source)

In an emerging market such as South Africa the move to organic production is usually a economic rather than an ideologically-driven decision.


A quiet revolution is taking place in the orchards of the Western Cape. After decades of trying to coax fruit onto the trees with the aid of chemicals, fruit farmers are packing in the pesticides and deciding to grow green.

Organic farming has come to South Africa, where it is being billed, not only as a profitable enterprise, but as a panacea for poor soil quality in growing regions.

From an estimated five million rand before 2003, sales of organic food grown in South Africa - domestic sales and exports combined - jumped to R155m in 2005, with an exponential increase expected again in 2006/2007, according to Organics South Africa trade organisation.

After a slow start the rate of conversion to organic farming has accelerated. Of the 230 certified organic or in-conversion operations in South Africa in 2005, 75% have started organic processes in the previous two years.

South African retailers are also, belatedly, falling in behind organics. Organic tomatoes, apples and potatoes are now widely available in supermarkets, from the mass-market Pick 'n Pay and Checkers chains to Woolworths.

In an emerging market such as South Africa the move to organic production is usually a economic rather than an ideologically-driven decision.

Cheap labour

With the global market for organic food growing at a runaway 35%, new suppliers are being urgently sought, particularly in Europe and the United States.

In these markets, high labour costs act as a deterrent to a shift to organic farming. South African farmers, on the other hand, have access to a large pool of cheap labour. With a minimum wage of R885 a month for farm workers in rural areas, most commercial farmers can afford several pairs of hands when it comes to weeding.

For Modderfontein Farm's Mike Stekhoven the shift to organics on his 2 500-hectare farm two hours north of Cape Town was the only way to secure future profitability.

"I'm a businessman," he says. "Conventional farming offers no return."

The citrus industry, like the wine industry, is periodically beset by gluts in production, pushing down prices and squeezing producers' margins.

Stekhoven produces 56 hectares of citrus and 130 hectares of rooibos tea on 800 hectares of arable land, with plans to expand the citrus crop to 100 hectares.

Although five years after beginning the conversion to organic, Modderfontein's citrus crops are still a fraction of what they used to be, Stekhoven estimates that the profits, when they come, will be mouthwatering.

Apart from higher prices for organics, farmers in the Western Cape give another reason for eschewing conventional agriculture: decades of heavy nitrate and fertiliser usage has robbed the already poor soil of its nutrients.

Killing off friendly bacteria

Hennie Saaiman, a potato farmer-turned consultant on biological agriculture, notes that in the late 1970s, 20kg of nitrates were recommended to secure two tons of wheat in South Africa. Today, to obtain the same yield requires an input of 55kg.

"If we hadn't made that change (to organic farming) we wouldn't still be here," says Mike Prevost, owner of Lorraine Farm in the Elgin Valley, who pioneered the production of organic apples and pears in the area east of Cape Town in the late 1990s.

Fruit farming is notorious for heavy spraying regimes, he says. While it rids the fruit of pesky bugs it also kills off friendly bacteria. The more Mike sprayed, the more fertiliser he needed, locking him into a vicious cycle of rising inputs costs.

Eight years after deciding he was "tired of working for the chemical industry", Prevost is now in his fourth season of fully organic farming, producing 700 tons of apples and 100 tons of pears for the domestic and export markets.

Nourished by compost made of cow manure, bird droppings, mulched apple and other natural ingredients, the soil now boasts a richer moister texture, and, Prevost maintains, his fruit has "better legs" to withstand extreme weather.

The Western Cape is at the coal face of climate change in South Africa, with rising temperatures, increased drought and altered rainfall already making an appearance.

A market for their output

Fruit farmers complain of mildew on grapes from unseasonable rains and of unduly hot spells robbing apples of moisture.

Whatever the reasons for the shift, organic farmers are assured of a market for their output, with signs of South African, European and American importers all starting to vie for supply.

Tired of being thrown low-grade fruit by producers who send the cream of their crop overseas, Pick 'n Pay is backing a scheme to boost production and ensure a more varied supply.

Organic Freedom Project, a non-profit organising, recently announced plans to create 100,000 jobs in organic food and biofuel production in South Africa by 2014.

Europe's largest organic fruit and veg importer, Dutch company Eosta is also looking to secure its supply lines in South Africa against competition from American importers willing to pay almost double for a carton of oranges.

The Nature & More label - developed by Eosta before being spun off into a separate foundation - aims to bring consumers closer to growers in faraway countries.

A sticker on the product contains a code that customers can enter on a website to obtain a rating of the farm's environmental and social commitment.


(all) (at) (au) (br) (ca) (ch) (cn) (cu) (dk) (eg) (eu) (gr) (id) (in) (it) (jm) (jp) (ke) (ls) (my) (nz) (tr) (ug) (uk) (us) (vn) (ww) (za) (zm)

(all) () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () () ().

Woolworths Acquires Macro Wholefoods

Banned Pesticide Blamed For Fish Mutations

EU Assembly Votes to Ban Toxic Pesticides

Obama's Choice of Vilsack: AgriBusiness as Usual at USDA ?

A Cautious Farm and Food Pick

Top Australian Chefs Unite Against GM Food

Organic Milk is Cream of the Crop

Majority of Darjeeling Tea To Go Organic

Nanotechnology - Sweating The Small Stuff

Government of Canada Invests Nearly $1.3 Million in Canadian Organic Industry

Seeds of Discontent

GM Moratorium Lifted in Two Australian States

Organic and Tastier The Rats Nose Knows

A Speyside Organic Whisky Wins the Supreme Title in the 2007 Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards

Work Starts on the National Australian Domestic Organic Standard

Long Island Rooting For Natural Landscaping

No Cloned Animals in Organic Food

Quiet Organic Revolution in South Africa

Nitrogen Testing Could Aid Organic Certification

Soil and Health Association Pleased at Organic Bread Victory

Ten Things the EU has Done for the Ordinary Citizen

Eastern European Countries Jumping on Organic Wagon

Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Marketplace Announce Merger

USDA in Legal Trouble over Industrial Scale Dairies

USDA Appoints Oregonian to National Organic Standards Board

Genetically Modified Hens Containing Human Genes Lay Cancer Fighting Eggs

The Hunt for Natural Food Colours

How Wal Mart Discovered Organic

Canada Announces National Organic Logo and New Regulations

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Addresses 'Organic' Claims

Tony Blair Choses Organic Over GM Farming

FAO to Hold International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security in 2007

The Battle of DDT

United States to Fund DDT Spraying in Uganda

WHO Gives Indoor Use of DDT a Clean Bill of Health for Controlling Malaria

Escaped Golf Course Grass Frees Gene Genie

How Wal Mart Discovered Organic

Lesotho: Farmers Overcome Child Malnutrition Through Organic Farming

East Africa: Region Seeks to Harmonise Organic Standards by 2007

Organic Food Goes Mass Market

Wal-Mart Targets the Organic Market

America's Whole Foods Market Expands into the United Kingdom

Organic Road To Riches For Chinas First Lady

15th IFOAM Congress Unites Organic World

Uganda Biggest Exporter of Organic Products in Africa

Italian Organic Standards Join Family of IFOAM Standards

The Australian Organic Industry Unites

Turkey Aligns Organic Farming Rules With European Union

Organic Sector Calls for Strict Liability Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

Making San Diego an Edible City

Revealed: Health Fears Over Secret Study Into GM Food

The International Day for Biological Diversity 22 May 2005

Aussies Accused of Double Standards Regarding GM Food Labelling Because of USA

Soil Atlas of Europe: European Soil Quality Declining

The Legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam

Food Sovereignty - Turning The Global Food System Around

Australian Scientists Develop Enhanced Crops To Feed The Poor Using Traditional Selective Breeding

Bio What? First Comprehensive Public Perception Study of Biotechnology in South Africa

The Zambia Experiment - GM vs Organic

Results of the First Global Review of Earth's Ecosystems.

Apeda Plans To Introduce Group Organic Certification For Small Farmers

Organic Milk Needs A Pasture

Brazil Says 'Yes' to GM Crops and Stem Cell Research

Biowatch Court Victory to Reveal GM Crops in South Africa

South Africa's Stance on GM Foods

Japan Urges Western Australia to Say No to GMO

Monsanto Agrees To $1.5m GM Crop Bribe Penalty In Indonesia

Australia's GM Free Status a Polite Fiction

Joining Resources To Improve Research In Organic Food and Farming

Report Proves That Organic Farming Is Better For Wildlife

Organic Agriculture in Greece

Wriggly Wonder - Culture of the Good Worm

X Games Skater Flips Over Organic Food

Traditional Rice Varieties Ideal For Organic Farming

Genetically Modified Food Is Heading For Your Fridge

Improving Quality Safety and Costs in the European Organic and Low Input Supply Chain

Vietnam's War Against Agent Orange

Genetically Engineered Salmon More Aggressive

European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming Adopted

Cuba Is A Potential Organic Produce Provider For The USA

The Green Party of New Zealand Launches The Food Revolution Campaign

United States Agriculture Department Rescinds Changes to Organic Food Standards

Shell Be (Organic) Apples

Bush Administration Threatens to Weaken Organic Program

Australia United States Free Trade Agreement

Stockholm Convention on POPs Becomes International Law. Launching a Global Campaign to Eliminate 12 Hazardous Chemicals

The Gene Revolution: Great Potential for the Poor - But no Panacea

Farming Is Not Like Any Old Business

USDA Orders Silence On Mad Cow Disease In Texas

Seaweed to Clean up DDT Contamination

Monsanto Shelves Its Global Plan for Genetically Modified Wheat

Biotech Foods Keep Coming Despite Monsanto Setback

Toxic Pesticides Above Safe Levels in Many U.S. Residents

Explore The Organic Table With Chateau Laurier And Ottawa Symphony

Top Chefs Serve Up Organic Cuisine To Summer Travellers Across America

NSW Rules Out GM Canola Trial

Fourth New Zealand Organic Food And Wine Festival In Oamaru

Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change Comes Into Force

Kim Wilde and the Pleasures of Gardening

Paying To Be Poisoned UK Pesticide Use

New Zealand Launch Of National Organic Standard

Farm Scale Evaluations Of Spring Sown Genetically Modified Crops

Billboards Milk The GM Debate

The GM Nation Report Findings Of The National Debate Is Published

Denmark Bans Glyphosates, The Active Ingredient In Roundup

The Cartagena Protocol On Biosafety Becomes Law

Brussels Rejects Bid For Ban On GM Crops In Austria

Sixty Four Countries Agree On Sustainable Fishing Practices

ANSI To Assess USDA National Accreditation Process

Little Economic Benefit From GM Crops

Europe Sets Rules For Labelling Genetically Modified Food

The European Union Stance On GMO and WTO

Cartegena Protocol On Biosafety Governing International Trade In GMOs To Become Law

EU Ratifies UN Protocol For Genetically Modified Food

Jamaica Looks To Organic Farming

Cuba Enters Market For Organic Products

USWTO Case Against EU On GM Is Misguided

Opening An Organic Restaurant The Paper Work Jungle

United Nations Commission On Sustainable Development Opens Its 2003 Session

Blair Faces Huge Resistance To His Support For GM Crops

Australian State Of NSW Bans Production Of GM Food Until 2006

Insects Thrive on GM Crops

Organic Food To Fight Cancer

Huge Possibilities For New Zealand Organic Exports - Biofach 2003

Global Precedent For Sustainable Agriculture Set By Australias State Of NSW

Chinas Largest Organic Food Base Setup In Qinghai Tibet

Organic Vegetables On Show In Tasmania

New Zealand Organic Food And Wine Festival In Oamaru Goes National

Natural Selection In Egypt

Chimps Go Ape For Organic Bananas

Kailis Has The Good Oil On Expansion

The Fear Of Food - The World Rejects America

Australian Shoppers Prompt Crackdown On GM Food

Heart Of The Country Working To Live In A Dream

Can Beggars Be Choosers

Requiem Agent Orange

Monsanto Hid Decades of PCB Pollution

Ousted Scientist and the Damning Research into Food Safety

First DDT Ban In United states Takes Effect In 1972

NEWS
HOMEhome pageCERTIFYcertification bodies and logosNEWSthe organic newslineNORANational Organic Registry AustraliaPEOPLEpioneers, supporters, membersBOOKSbooksGLOSSARYdefinitions of various termsADDITIVESadditives and linksPESTICIDESthe dirty dozenGMOgenetically modified organismsWHYwhy organic ?ABOUTconstitution, financial, incorporationCONTACTcontact detailsTRANSLATEtranslationsSEARCHsearch results
? 2009 Organic Ltd (ACN 102 995 344). organic.com.au/news/2007.04.13
RSS Feed Atom Feed RSS Feed