China’s ban on SA wool exports negatively affecting Eastern Cape agricultural industry

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The agricultural industry in the Eastern Cape is under pressure as the western half of the province is still in the grip of a prolonged drought.

Another big looming issue is the ban on wool exports from South Africa to China due to the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in parts of the country. These issues are on the table at the Agri Eastern Cape’s annual congress in Jeffery’s Bay.

China is the biggest market for South African wool with up to 80% of production going east.

It is a R5 billion per annum industry, but due to the ban, the jobs of 35 000 workers are on the line. Agri Eastern Cape President, Peter Cloete, says the export ban will have a devastating effect on local producers.

“The ban on the export of wool to China is very serious. We don’t understand it and think there must be an underlying problem. There was food and mouth in 2018, they put all the protocols in place, protocols are still very much in place, the stores are being warmed, and the wool is piling. We don’t understand why this ban has not been lifted, we suspect there’s an underlying reason.”

The provincial government says the export ban puts the spotlight on the lack of a large-scale local wool value chain.

“We can’t rely on the export market to grow our economy, we should have done this a long time ago as government. It’s amazing that we don’t have proper wool processing plants in our province, in our country when we have the largest wool stock. I had some discussion with wool growers and we are going to have a follow-up meeting,” says Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane.

Mabuyane says transformation in the sector remains slow. More than 70% of commercial agricultural land belongs to white farmers.

“We’ve only transferred or distributed only about 5% as a province.  I’ve met other farmers here, young white farmers asking what they can do to assist in the transformation and I said we have a number of young black graduates, both men and women. We need to look into that skill and redistribution. The land that the government has must be given to people who are going to work the land.”

The prolonged drought in the western half of the Eastern Cape continues to impact agricultural production. Delegates at the conference will again look at the impact of this and how to continue to mitigate it.