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EU climate policies a mixed bag for SADC

EU climate policies a mixed bag for SADC

from ALFRED SHILONGO in Windhoek, Namibia
WINDHOEK, (CAJ News) THE European Union’s (EU’s) 2030 climate target plan will have implications for agro exporters in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Mozambique.

It will have implications for farmers hoping to export to that bloc, as the union aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels.

EU has crafted the “Farm to Fork strategy” to ensure agriculture, fisheries, and the entire food system effectively contributes to achieving the target.

The new strategy is fundamental to a broader initiative, the European Green Deal, whose aim is to reduce the environmental and carbon footprint in the way food is produced and consumed.

Food production, processing, retailing and waste are some of the list of 27 actions in the strategy.

Economists noted the EU strategy said the deal posed challenges, risks as well as potential growth points to producers in SACU and Mozambique.

The Namibia-headquartered SACU comprises the host country, Botswana, Eswatini and Lesotho.

Experts Tinashe Kapuya and Wandile Sihlobo, mentioned some challenges to include regulatory and policy uncertainties and high costs of compliance.

Kapuya is a soft commodities analyst, agricultural value chain and trade specialist. Sihlobo is the chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber.

“It might take some time for regulators and food-system actors to align their policy, regulations, and business decisions to the emerging requirements of the food system,” they stated jointly.

The experts noted policy cycles and political processes could impose a lag-time of anywhere between three and five years.

“This is likely to lead to a transition phase of regulatory and policy uncertainty.”

Kapuya and Sihlobo said South African agribusinesses have had to conform to stringent EU regulatory standards.

There has also been an ever-increasing set of private standards ranging from traceability, to exposure to allergens, good farming practice and child labour.

Various kinds of certification could mean resource-poor farming households could seldom afford such high costs of adopting new regulations and certification.

“Without financial support, most smallholder farmers will inevitably be excluded from participating in export markets,” the analysts stated.

They also fear increased inequality as resource-poor farmers could be left out of the new “sustainable agro-food system” due to their lack of financial and technical capacity to conform to new standards.

There are however prospects, particularly for South Africa to grow market share is in genetically modified (GM) foods.

“A change in its (EU’s) policy could open up new export avenues for South Africa.

Another opportunity arises from projections that global food demand will increase by as much as 60 percent by 2050.

It is noted few EU member states can allocate enough land to produce and match supply to meet demand.

“The assumption, therefore, is that the EU will increasingly depend on food imports,” Kapuya and Sihlobo stated.

South Africa has at least 1,3 million hectares of additional cropland.

Last week, senior officials and experts from SACU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states met, through videoconference, to continue negotiations on an updated and expanded Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

They exchanged views on the steps needed to move the review process forward and took stock of outstanding issues under review.

Follow-ups to be completed before the parties meet again during the first semester of 2022 were agreed.

SACU imports under the FTA amount to €475 million since 2008.

Exports are €658 million.

– CAJ News

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