The Garden Route remains a hub of agricultural exports

The Garden Route is a region renowned for its natural beauty and diverse agricultural offerings.

According to the latest data available to the District Economic Development Unit of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), the top ten exported products from the district collectively accounted for approximately 72.89% of the region’s total exports.

According to Ald. Memory Booysen, GRDM Executive Mayor: “A substantial share of exports, 25.05%, includes fresh apples, pears, and quinces”.

“These high-quality fruits are in demand worldwide. Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and Egypt, for instance, are the largest importers of apples worldwide.”

“Coming in second at 18.76% are fresh or dried citrus fruits. The export of leather further prepared, after tanning or crusting contributes around 7.59% to the district’s export revenue,” said Booysen.

GRDM is also busy with the process to establish a fresh produce market for the Garden Route. At the moment, GRDM is on the lookout for land to purchase. This will be followed by a process of appointing a service provider to design the fresh produce market and drive additional processes. If the GRDM is able to have its own fresh produce market, it will also small-scale farmers to grow their businesses and create a more inclusive agricultural economy. This is in line with GRDM’s Growth and Development Strategy. Local producers will be able to supply produce to the regional market and save a lot of costs on transport and reduce greenhouse emissions.

The Garden Route is already known for its international agricultural footprint. One product, in particular, is the De Rustica Coratina Estate Collection Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The product achieved the prestigious Double Gold award during the 2023 Aurora International Taste Challenge, solidifying its status as the best in the world.
The top exported products also include canola, proteas, macadamia nuts, pomegranate, aloe cosmetic products, barley, wheat, gin, wine from Bitou & Kannaland, and live ostrich birds.

In addition to agriculture, the Garden Route excels in other industries, including boat building and furniture manufacturing, further contributing to the region’s economic growth.

The Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism is currently rolling out a provincial-wide export awareness campaign. A session was, as recently as 21 July 2023, held in George with several people interested in exporting.

While the Garden Route has achieved remarkable success in its export ventures, there are still challenges that need attention to unlock the district’s full potential. Some of the key challenges faced by industries include:

1. Veterinary challenges with certification.
2. Environmental/export Regulations on farming in other countries, such as the UK’s restrictions on citrus.
3. Lack of value-adding for primary agricultural products despite high crop volumes.
4. Connection to the power supply with competitive pricing.
5. Lengthy permitting processes by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Cape Nature.
6. Logistics to major ports and dry stock locations from the main centre.
7. Absence of Southern Africa Development Community Free Trade benefits.
8. Double charges on export and import duties on services, e.g., Botswana.
9. Limited facilities for launching big boats and yachts.
10. Challenges in marketing locally manufactured products.

The Garden Route authorities are addressing these challenges through a partnership with Seda, the Western Cape Departments of Agriculture and Local Government, creating platforms for market access at the Pop-Up markets in shopping malls and currently in the process of establishing an Agro-processing facility for honeybush, working towards creating a conducive environment for industries to thrive.

Other potential commodities and some already growing for export, include but are not limited to honeybush, sceletium, tea, olives, grape juice, kiwifruit, cannabis, and strawberries, along with services in the IT sector.

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