Opinion Piece

Lucerne hay farming in South Africa holds the potential for export

Lucerne possesses greater export opportunities for farmers in South Africa. Planting Lucerne serves as a cornerstones of sustainable intercropping and animal production systems, writes Agricultural Economist, Lucius Phaleng. 

The plant is well adjusted to perform best in almost all areas of South Africa; however, its quality production prefers deep, well drained soils with neutral to high PH. 

The sustainability and profitability of lucerne hay production in South Africa is dependent on the continued adoption and deployment of new cultivars with superior yield, quality and disease resistance characteristics. Cultivar selection plays a critical role in producing high yields of good quality lucerne at the same production cost

It has been a challenging 2019/20 production season in terms of quantity and quality hay produced across South Africa, and more specifically in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. 

The Lucene hay locally produce was about 410 660 tons which is 7.09% decrease when comparing lucerne hay produced during 2018/19 (441 976 tons). This is was due to the fact that producers could not achieve maximum yield as expected due to erratic and excessive rain during the first quarter of 2020 in the Northern Cape region.

Despite the affected yield, lucerne industry still hold a great potential in improving its exports in the global markets. A larger share of lucerne hay exports are destined to Africa and Asia continent, however, there is untapped potential in other regions such as Europe and Middle East. 

In 2019, South Africa managed to export about 66 952 tons which is 71.2% increase when compared to 2014 (47 690 tons) exports. There is a growing potential for Asian markets especially Chinese markets and this is due to China lucerne hay protocol. Lucerne hay is a major ingredient in China’s expanding dairy sector and these products appear to have an even greater market potential.

Therefore, the aim of the lucerne hay protocol is to ensure the safety on South African lucerne hay export to the republic of china. The aim of the protocol is to improve the volumes of lucerne hay exports in the Chinese and trade data showed that exports have increased in China market since the establishment of the protocol.

Lucius Phaleng is an agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and he writes in his own personal capacity. The article was specifically written and published for Mzansi Agriculture Talk. The views expressed here are those of the author and not of or by Mzansi Agriculture Talk.

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