Eastern Cape
Boost for Eastern Cape new era farmers
12:42 (GMT+2), Thu , 29 May 2014
Eastern Cape
300 000 hectares to be developed in the Eastern Cape.
The possibility of developing 300 000 hectares in the Eastern Cape for the settlement of New Era farmers is on the cards. “We believe that this will enable many subsistence and smallholder farmers to grow into new era commercial farmers,” Mr Kobus Steenekamp, business manager of Monsanto South Africa, said at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

He said Grain SA is well known for its farmer development programme that develops sustainable capacitated grain farmers through skills development and the transfer of knowledge. New era farmers are those farmers who have moved away from the subsistence and small-scale holder segment and who are approaching farming from a commercial point of view.

“We are now looking at how to get 300 000 hectares in production in the Eastern Cape and, through skills transfer, establish a new era farmer to achieve sustainable, affordable food production and security with the use of technology – including biotechnology. Farmers, however, are not compelled to purchase GMO seed. The company also produces a variety of conventional hybrids, for which there still is a market. It is the farmer’s choice what he wants to buy.”

“In the early 90’s approximately four million ha of maize were planted in South Africa, producing 9.6 million tons, an average of 2.4t/ha. The past season some 2.7 million ha were planted with an expected yield of 13 million tons, an average of 4.5t/ha,” he said.

Global population, according to the United Nations, is currently 7.1 billion. In 1980 it was 4.4 billion. By 2050 it will be approaching 10 billion people, all needing to be fed.

He said more food has to be grown on less land to feed a growing population of humans, poultry and livestock. People’s eating habits have changed. They don’t only want to eat maize-meal but desire some meat as well. Agricultural land is shrinking worldwide. In South Africa 10 000 hectares are being lost annually to coal mining expansion. It is anticipated that the 300 000 ha in the Eastern Cape will help to offset this loss.

Steenekamp said Monsanto’s strategy was to assist farmers to produce more sustainable food supplies on less land with the use of the latest available technologies of which biotechnology is one. The company spends more than US$2million (R20 million) a day on agricultural research in order to bring the technology to the market as quickly as possible. Worldwide, Steenekamp explained, the company employs 23 000 people, including scientists, agronomists and agriculturalists, who are 100% focussed on agriculture.

A drought tolerant maize is expected to be commercialised in South Africa within the next couple of years. It was launched in the United States during the past season with exceptionally good results. The company works in close co-operation with other companies to ensure sustainable food security.

Biotechnology crops that are being developed have been tested more thoroughly than any other foods ever grown or eaten in the history of mankind. Three trillion GM meals have been served since 1996, without any adverse effects.