U.S. Food & Agri-industy trade mission underway

Collaboration, innovation key to future food security

The first U.S. Department of Agriculture food and agriculture trade mission met with potential business partners from Sub-Saharan Africa at a series of events in Johannesburg from 17-20 September 2013.

Collaboration across borders and innovation in agriculture and food processing will be key to meeting the nutritional demands of a growing global population, says U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter.


She was speaking in Sandton at the commencement of the first U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Agribusiness Trade Mission to South Africa. The mission, representing 17 U.S. agriculture and food companies and 15 cooperative groups, held talks with potential business partners from sub-Saharan Africa, and participated in the International Food and Drink Event (IFEA) Trade Show at the Sandton Convention Centre.

The mission was the first Sub-Saharan African mission by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and included USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Phil Karsting, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator.

Ms Vetter noted that the mission aimed to boost bilateral trade with Sub-Saharan Africa to the benefit of businesses and consumers on both continents. “Collaboration on agricultural innovation and bilateral trade will benefit the growing African middle class, but will also allow producers to better meet the calorie needs of lower income groups,” she said.

Principal South African agricultural exports to the U.S. include nuts, citrus fruits and wood pulp. “The import of citrus – both for direct consumption and for processing – creates jobs in the U.S. – an example of the benefits of partnership,” she said. Ms Vetter also highlighted high quality South African fruits and nuts – some of which are difficult to source in the U.S., and praised the fine wines imported from South Africa.

The U.S. is South Africa’s 10th largest supplier of agri products, accounting for 4% of the value of imports in 2012.  South Africa imports a range of processed foods, dairy and poultry from the U.S. Across the region, U.S. feedgrain and fodder have a strong presence, a factor helping improve the sub-Saharan livestock sector, says Ms Vetter.

Ms Harden said bilateral trade between the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa had topped $4.7 billion last year, with U.S. exports to the region having grown by over 200% in the past decade. “However, many U.S. businesses are still unaware of the trade opportunities in Africa,” she said. “The USDA recognises that the U.S agriculture industry must act now to take advantage of the growing opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Ms Vetter said she expected to see significant growth in bilateral trade, as her Department’s initiatives in line with President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative generated increased awareness among U.S. suppliers of the potential markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Illustrating the need for ongoing bilateral trade, Dr Pieter Mulder, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, noted that the rapidly growing middle class in sub-Saharan Africa had changed food patterns, “So while we have more than enough maize, and export this, we now import more rice to meet demand.”

With over 128 million middle class households in Africa by 2020, Dr Mulder highlighted ongoing change expected in food patterns and the resulting potential for the food processing, retail and logistics sectors.

Arend Van Wamelen, Principal at McKinsey & Company noted in a briefing for delegates that the risk profile of major African markets was very similar to those of BRICS nations. In addition, Africa is 40% urbanised, he said, with a decreasing dependence on oil and gas resources for economic growth. Van Wamelen said significant economic reform, restructuring and improved political stability now characterised the Sub-Saharan market. He said some African markets were now generating higher returns on investment than developed markets. In addition, he noted: “Around 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa. As global demand for food grows, we see huge untapped potential in Africa.”

For further information about the U.S. Sub-Saharan Africa food and agriculture trade mission and the U.S. companies that participated contact wilna@tradeprojects.co.za

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