“Farmers are farmers. They may not speak the same language… but they understand the passion why they are on the land. They understand that wonderful opportunity and responsibility of feeding other people.”
It was with these words Deputy Secretary for Agriculture Krysta Harden addressed 500 members of the agriculture industry at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) annual conference in Cape Town last week.
Harden travelled to South Africa to meet with key stakeholders in the country’s agriculture industry and government.
She told conference goers it was important to open up farming to the youth and especially young women.
“Who is going to be farming next? How do we encourage young people when they may think of agriculture as an industry they don’t want to go in to. Women may see it where they will not be recognized or valued. How do we change that dynamic?”
Harden said the industry needs young people and women’s leadership, passion and new ideas.
She added that it was great to see the energy and excitement about agriculture. She experienced a slice of this excitement at a women’s breakfast during her visit to Cape Town.
On Friday, Harden told CNBC Africa the continent was an important market to the United States and she was looking to grow opportunities. She said Nigeria was the United States’ biggest export market in Africa and South Africa the biggest African importer.
“We are excited to grow those opportunities… Trade is two way and we need to be talking about import and export with the U.S.”
In South Africa, 85,000 people are employed in the citrus industry because of the export market to the U.S.
Last year, the U.S. bought $250 million of South African agricultural products – and 98% of South African exports enter the U.S. duty free thanks to programs like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Harden told the conference: “We are not competitors; we are a group of people who want to help each other grow markets. We cannot continue to fight over the same small piece of pie… we have to find ways to break through those barriers and work together to grow those markets.”