Farmers in Mpumalanga have appreciated the recently signed bilateral agreement, enabling South Africa to export its abundant avocado harvest to the People’s Republic of China.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday at the Union Buildings in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, coinciding with the highly anticipated BRICS Summit, set to commence today.
Thoko Didiza, the South African Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, and Yi Wang, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the agreement as representatives of their respective governments during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to South Africa.
Xi and Ramaphosa’s teams held a bilateral meeting before various agreements were signed by their responsible ministers shortly before the start of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg.
Wang signed on behalf of the Asian country’s Minister of Agriculture, Tang Ranijan.
Didiza expressed great enthusiasm about signing the agreement, emphasizing the importance of gaining access to the Chinese market for promoting export-driven growth in the southern region.
“Gaining access to China is a vital step in driving export-led growth for the South African avocados, which is a commitment the government has made under the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan. In recent years, the avocado industry has expanded by 4 750 hectares increasing the total hectare to over 18 000,” said Didiza.
According to Didiza, China has shown a growing interest in avocados, potentially creating a significant opportunity for South Africa to expand its production.
The sector has a workforce of around 15,000 individuals, including farm labourers and packhouse employees.
“This will have a multiplication effect which will have growth in employment, skills, and economic development, in particular the rural areas of our country where the majority of avocados are produced,” Didiza said.
Mbuso Thumbathi, a commercial farmer from Mpumalanga, expressed optimism regarding the potential outcomes of the agreement.
“Trade agreements of this nature hold great importance, not only for agricultural actors but also for strengthening diplomatic ties among the participating nations. They aim to create opportunities and address bureaucratic barriers related to international trade and exporting to foreign nations,” Thumbathi said.
“Agreements reached between key stakeholders and emerging nations often lead to outcomes that are beneficial for all parties involved. The concept involves a mutual exchange. China, as the world’s second-biggest economy, holds a significant role and has established historical connections with South Africa. These relationships have a historical foundation and hold potential for future development.”
Thumbathi is a land activist, farmer and the co-chief executive at Phahlane Agrisolutions, a consulting and management company that provides technical support and equipment supply for the forestry and agriculture markets.
Based in Nkomazi near the Mozambican border, Thumbathi specialises in livestock farming, crops and various plants, including moringa, macadamia, avocado, sugar, banana and citrus. He is also a Matsamo CPA (a Land Reform Project) member.
As a farmer and businessman, he was invited last month as a guest speaker at the China-South Africa II Symposium in Pretoria, organised by the Human Sciences Research Council and the China Rural Technology Development Center, which the Chinese Embassy in South Africa supported.