Help on offer for Irish agri firms to move into African market
With over 1.2m sq km of land, South Africa comprises Mediterranean, subtropical and semi-desert regions, producing everything from deciduous, citrus and subtropical fruit to grain, wool, cut flowers, livestock and game.
Its farm holdings range in size from the vast fields of the Eastern Cape to subsistence-based production in deep, rural parts.
When things become quiet around the Irish countryside, South Africa's counter-seasonality offers agritech and farm-machinery producers an additional southern hemisphere market to provide a counterbalance to the end of a busy period back at home.
While some agricultural markets 'down under' have a strong indigenous farm machinery heritage, South Africa has a preference for imported European and North American equipment.
The good news is that, despite the weak value of the South African rand, European exports can compete on price. Irish companies active in the market include farm-machinery producers Keenan and McHale and food-processing software provider Emydex.
Other potential opportunities offered by South Africa's large agricultural sector include animal nutrition and veterinary products, dairy and meat-processing equipment, alternative-energy solutions and water-saving technologies.
South Africa is the largest animal-feed producer on the continent, and there's an ongoing opportunity to supply supplements to feed manufacturers, although this will mean taking market share from existing players.
Meat processing remains a large sector, particularly as the consumption of protein is increasing with a growing middle class. With the introduction of minimum-wage legislation there is a heavy focus on efficiency, with many South African farmers and processors looking to new technologies to increase productivity.