When the Pundit had the opportunity to keynote the main South African produce event some years ago, it was a special privilege. Typically the USDA works to help promote American exports, but in South Africa our national interest is different.
Under very difficult circumstances, the South Africans have done what no one else in Africa has done — create a multi-racial democratic society. And as the world’s great arsenal of democracy, it is in our interest to do all we can to help South Africa prosper and to prove to the world that men and women of goodwill working together can, regardless of skin color, create a society in which all can prosper.
In the produce industry, our bit is to help create employment and help South Africa’s valuable foreign currency by buying some of South Africa’s world-class exported produce.
We found a thoughtful expert who could paint the way, and we asked Keith Loria, Pundit Contributing Editor, to find out more:
Manager of International Trade and Investment Intelligence
The Agricultural Business Chamber
Johannesburg, South Africa
Q: Please provide a little background about your experience in the industry.
A: I have a stronger academic background than industry background because I spent a considerable amount of time at the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), which is a think tank based at the University of Pretoria. They have been doing a lot of industry work, but it’s about creating market models to generate outlooks. For a while I was doing econometric modeling and scenario analysis.
Q:What do you do in your current role with the Agricultural Business Chamber?
A:I joined the chamber a little over a year ago. Since joining, I have had a lot of industry experience because I have interacted with a broad spectrum of agricultural players. The membership of Ag Biz spans from banks to insurance companies to manufacturers and processors, as well as traders.
As a result, I have had a lot of exposure from different players in the industry. We align ourselves more toward issues that are common for everybody but we take into account the issues that affect the unique needs for our members. The balance between academia and industry is one that I have tried to strive for over the past 18 months.
Q: You’ll be attending your first New York Produce Show and Conference as a featured speaker at the Global Trade Symposium. What will be the subject of your talk?
A:I’m going to be talking about something that has been at the core of what we’ve been dealing with the past couple of years. It’s really about trying to give the audience an insight into South Africa’s exports to the United States for citrus.
South Africa is one of the major global exporters of citrus, and the United States is quite an important market for our oranges and soft citrus. There have been some very interesting developments that have happened over the past couple of years, and part of the reason for my presentation is to give the audience some insight into what we’ve been dealing with as an industry and the broader implications of the market access.
Q: Can you summarize one of those implications to give people more of a preview?
A:The first issue is concerning the sanitary issues. The U.S. has a standard protocol and operating procedure, which is quite a stringent mechanism that ensures whatever output coming out of South Africa meets quality specifications suited to the health and consumer needs of the U.S. market.
Back in 2006, two trucks going to California were intercepted and some false marks were discovered. Further investigations showed that the larvae of the false codling moth (FCM) was dead, reflecting that the cold treatment had in fact worked. However, the US insisted on the addition of a further two days of cold treatment to allay fears of a risk in the spread of FCM, particularly in California. After exports peaked in 2006, we saw exports dropping by nearly a third due to new regulations, and we have tried ever since to lobby the U.S. around this protocol.
Q: What do you hope attendees learn from your talk?
A:The Africa Growth Opportunity Act is the main issue that I would like to bring to the attention of the audience.
Q: What are your expectations from the New York Produce Show and Conference as a whole?
A:First of all, we value the interactions between ourselves and other players in the global markets, so the networks are quite important to the Agriculture Business Chamber. There’s also the issue of leaning more about what’s going on in other parts of the world.
Q: With some of the most important executives in the North American produce trade being present at the show, in what ways do you feel it will be beneficial to you?
A:I’m greatly looking forward to talking with some of those others who will be presenting at the show or showcasing their products and services. We bring that back to our membership. Every time I come back from important events like this, I present the information to our council and talk about the opportunities. We present it in a way that is positive and talk about what we can learn from developments or practices happening outside of Africa.
Q: The U.S. obviously has a great interest in the peace and prosperity of South Africa. In what ways do you feel your presentation will assist that?
A:Beyond creating awareness and sharing of information, we also want to attract investment from other players in the global space. We, like any other economy, want to attract investors from outside to grow the industry.
Q: What are you hoping to bring back to Africa?
A:The middle class has demanded more in terms of food quality and we’ve seen a lot of changes in taste and preferences in Africa. The supermarket revolution—as it has been called—has been facilitated to a large extent by the increases in income across the continent. What we hope to get out of this conference is to import the practices and business models we see out there, adapt them to the African context, and bring them back home to us and meet the unique needs of the African population.
Q: I understand this will be your first time outside of Africa. What are you looking forward to most about coming to America and New York?
A:There are a lot of things I expect to learn, even outside of my professional life. To see the infrastructure and development of the city of New York, which I’ve only seen on TV…. many Africans who go outside of this continent bring with them concepts and ideas that are basically fed off the practices and economy structures of the developed Western hemisphere countries, and I would like to learn more about how things are run.
And of course, I’ll go to the Knicks game! But it’s more about bringing the development agenda home and trying to tell people that there are a lot of things happening in the global space, and this show is giving us a platform to learn from others and help us with global competitiveness.
First, we wish to express our thanks to a variety of government officials who worked with us to secure a quick Visa for Tinashe so that he could join us in New York. Julie C. Nicholson and Eugene P. Philhower of the USDA/FAS in the US Embassy in London, and Eric Wenberg (Minister-Counselor), Margaret-N Ntloedibe (Ag Specialist) and Abigail Nguema, all with USDA/FAS in Pretoria, worked diligently to make it happen.
Together they are a shining example of government at its best. All the attendees at The New York Produce Show and Conference owe them our gratitude and appreciation for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Second, we appreciate Mr. Kapuya’s willingness to make the journey. We hope that by sharing ideas, we can do more produce trade together and that this trade might lead to a closer friendship between our nations and greater prosperity for all.
Come hear Tinashe Kapuya speak at The Global Trade Symposium on Tuesday.
You can register for the Global Trade Symposium and the whole New York Produce Show and Conference right here.