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Global farm opinions

Agriculture.com Staff 12/18/2009 @ 8:48am

The views of South African farmers are shaped by the varied climate they deal with. This shifts from highly extensive farming in the semi-desert through the maize belt of the Transvaal, to the rich tropical areas of fruit and vines.

"Nowhere in the world do you get so many different climate zones in such a small area, and it gives the farmers a very diverse outlook," notes Chris Burgess, editor of South Africa Farmers Weekly, the country's largest farming publication.

Grain production is for the domestic market, or tends to travel no further than near-African neighbours. The country is a net red meat importer. But fruit and wine make South Africa a net exporter of agricultural produce, with the UK its biggest customer. "One of the biggest problems is that farmers compete with highly subsidised imports, so they are very much in favour of removing trade barriers."

The government has largely shunned biofuels, saying it is not feasible to use food crops for fuel. But the nation's agriculture is being affected by climate change. "It's already affecting apple producers. But farmers are more worried about preserving their margins than the long-term effects of climate change."

Land reform prohibits most the luxury of a long-term view. "It's a huge issue for South African farmers. Since 1994 vast tracts have come under land claims. Many farmers have found it too much of a challenge and have decided to move elsewhere."

The views of South African farmers are shaped by the varied climate they deal with. This shifts from highly extensive farming in the semi-desert through the maize belt of the Transvaal, to the rich tropical areas of fruit and vines.

Few nations feel more exposed to the threat of climate change than Australia. The debate on global warming and its effect on agriculture preoccupy many of the nation's farmers.

Dutch farmers are masters of producing staggering amounts of food from a relatively small area, and are gearing up to supply more to a hungry world.

New Zealand farmers are the most outward-looking in the world. The country has a huge agricultural output that dwarfs the domestic needs of its four million inhabitants. An eye-opening 96% of its dairy output is exported, for example.

The growing demand for food around the world has put UK agricultural production back at the heart of the economy and political thinking.

Given the size of the country you’d expect Canadian growers to be relishing the prospect of raising production to meet rising global demand. But their focus is on value, not volume.

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