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The engine driving KZN economy

Written by Mbulelo Baloyi
In response to President Jacob Zuma's call to make 2011 the year of job creation, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has identified the Dube Trade Port as the engine that will drive economic development in the province.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize said the province would target certain farming sectors such as red meat (mainly goat and beef), poultry, dairy, maize, dry beans, soya beans and egg producing to increase the province’s ability to export fresh produce to other countries through the Dube Trade Port.

With its favourable climate, the province is able to focus on producing for the local market, as well as on export markets, particularly Middle Eastern countries.

New projects

The provincial government is looking at starting new agricultural projects involving emerging, subsistence and commercial farmers. These include the Besters Beef operation outside Ladysmith, the Jikijela Agricultural Project involving five areas in Maphumulo, and other smaller projects such as Masibambisane in Nkandla and Dawn Valley Farm in Ixopo.

"The present number of tractors and agricultural implements will need to be doubled in the next two years to match the increasing demand of farmers who will be motivated into action by the successes of the programme," the Premier said. He added that advanced work had been undertaken to promote vegetable and fruit production to support the export programme through the Dube Trade Port.

Development Agency

“The Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development and the Trade Port have identified specific farms in all districts where there is potential for massive production of high value crops for export,” said Mkhize. Products to be exported include cut flowers, fresh vegetables and fruits.

To speed up the export programme, the provincial government set up the Agri-business Development Agency (ADA) in 2009. This agency, jointly managed by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development supports emerging farmers and those farmers who got land through land reform programmes.

Passion and determination

Mkhize said ADA was set up to help emerging farmers, who were in debt and were about to lose their farms. The agency has provided these farmers with planning services, technical support, mentorship and renegotiating debt repayment. It also helped to link the farmers with markets for their products.

“Many farms have been saved from liquidation,” he said. “I have recently had the privilege of meeting the emerging farmers receiving the services from the agency. They listed all the challenges faced by emerging farmers, urging government to do more to support their farming enterprises. I was encouraged as I saw their passion for their work, their appreciation of the service and their determination to make the country succeed,” Mkhize said.