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[genet-news] AGRICULTURE & DEVELOPMENT: South African Competion Commission to decide about (Bt) maize growers' fate



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   COMPETITION BODY HAS FARMERS ON EDGE

SOURCE:  Business Day, South Africa

AUTHOR:  Wyndham Hartley

URL:     http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=126075

DATE:    08.11.2010

SUMMARY: "The future of many commercial farmers still hangs in the balance as the competition authorities consider an exemption application from GrainSA for a plan to dispose of the 4-million ton maize surplus. [...] Ms Joemat-Pettersson led a delegation to China in September hoping to establish a market for the maize surplus, but this was apparently unsuccessful. Many of SA?s neighbours will not import its maize because of their fears of genetically modified grain."

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COMPETITION BODY HAS FARMERS ON EDGE

The future of many commercial farmers still hangs in the balance as the competition authorities consider an exemption application from GrainSA for a plan to dispose of the 4-million ton maize surplus.

The inability of farmers to sell their maize has led to dire warnings that more than 10000 commercial farmers are facing bankruptcy or a lack of finance for next year?s crop. The surplus has also raised fears that farmers who do survive will turn to other crops and so possibly create a shortage of the African staple.

Yesterday Molebogeng Taunyane, external communications co-ordinator of the Competition Commission, could say only there was an application for exemption from the collusion aspects of South African competition law and that the investigation into the application was continuing.

Department of Agriculture spokesman Steve Galane said the application had the backing of Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat- Pettersson and there was hope for ?a reprieve?. He said that as yet there had been no response from the commission.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson led a delegation to China in September hoping to establish a market for the maize surplus, but this was apparently unsuccessful. Many of SA?s neighbours will not import its maize because of their fears of genetically modified grain.

An informal legal opinion from the commission in June found that the plan to export the surplus, which included farmers pooling their maize, was anticompetitive and illegal, and advised GrainSA to apply for an exemption.

Chairman of GrainSA Neels Ferreira said there was to be no pooling as was first suggested, as farmers have had to make other arrangements for their maize. He stressed that GrainSA was not ?in the market? but was playing a

co-ordinating role that would be to the benefit of farmers and others in the ?value chain?.

In its original justification GrainSA said ?normal free market export activities, conducted under the free market regime whereby producers operate as individuals and are responsible for the marketing and trading of their own produce, cannot remove the surplus sufficiently to allow producers a large enough scope for production in order to operate profitably in the coming seasons.

?The current competition laws prohibit class action which disadvantage producers and agribusiness from coming together to achieve scale and drive down costs in order to compete in the global maize market environment.?

Mr Ferreira said farmers were getting about R1200 a ton for yellow maize, R300 less than prices in the US.

In addition, the cost of seed, while depressed, had not come down at the same rate as the overall maize price.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   ORGANIC FARMING STARTS TO BEAR FRUIT

SOURCE:  Times Live, South Africa

AUTHOR:  Anton Ferreira

URL:     http://www.timeslive.co.za/business/article748074.ece/Organic-farming-starts-to-bear-fruit

DATE:    07.11.2010

SUMMARY: "The departments of agriculture and trade and industry are circulating for comment a draft policy on organic farming that promises to promote the practice among emerging black farmers and provide training. [...] "Before this, organics was a poor little cousin who was thought to be a bit weird, too expensive and elitist, and actually just a lot of rubbish. Now they're saying we have equal importance with agro-chemical commercial farming and GM.""

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ORGANIC FARMING STARTS TO BEAR FRUIT

Supporters of organic farming have welcomed a government initiative to regulate and support the sector, saying sustainable production of healthy food will become mainstream.

The departments of agriculture and trade and industry are circulating for comment a draft policy on organic farming that promises to promote the practice among emerging black farmers and provide training.

The initiative has led to the registration of a non-profit SA Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) to try to end fragmentation in the industry.

SAOSO spokesman Ian Robinson said: "We will lobby for the far-reaching benefits of organics, from more efficient water use to carbon sequestration and the health benefits of better nutrition and reduced agro-chemical toxins."

He said food grown according to organic principles - without pesticides or herbicides, but with compost - would reduce disease and ease the burden on the healthcare system.

"The agro-chemical and biotech industries continue to invest heavily in promoting unsustainable and harmful practices," said Robinson, "Astoundingly, two-thirds of South Africa's conventional maize is GM (genetically modified), while Europe has banned GM organisms."

Among the issues addressed in the draft policy, which has been two years in the making, is a process to certify farms producing organic food.

Certification is now carried out by a range of private companies that charge high prices for their services.

"High certification costs act as barriers to new entrants in the sector, especially resource-poor smallholders," the policy document says.

Liz Eglington, an organic farmer in the Little Karoo who helped draft the policy, said it proposed keeping the current certification system for exports but introducing the new system for the local market.

"What we are pushing for is the participatory guarantee system - you set up sustainable organic communities, then you have a selection of people from that community who go and inspect farms," she said.

This inspection team might include a local farmer, a retailer and a consumer.

"They will want to know - 'You say your chickens are free range, I want to see. Are these chickens happy?'"

Eglington said the changes to the certification process might be controversial among agencies now providing the service as it threatened their domination of the system.

"The Department of Agriculture has said there are three sectors as far as they are concerned in agriculture, each as important as the other," said Eglington.

"Before this, organics was a poor little cousin who was thought to be a bit weird, too expensive and elitist, and actually just a lot of rubbish. Now they're saying we have equal importance with agro-chemical commercial farming and GM."

Eglington praised the new emphasis on education about organics in schools.

"That's the magic here ... There will be a new effort to get people farming sustainably, ethically and with nature," she said. "There will be support, there will be training. I think it's going to explode."




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