Mzansi Agriculture Talk Caught up with Trade Lawyer and director at Avoport, Shandini Naidoo, whose recent appointment to serve on the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) board has made history.
Naidoo has now become the youngest ever person and woman to serve on the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) board since its inception.
“The feeling is surreal. I am truly humbled and honoured to have been appointed by Minister Thoko Didiza to sit as a member of the NAMC Council Board. I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this role and eternally grateful for opportunity,” she said.
Naidoo said that to be the youngest person to be appointed to the Board fills her with a deep sense of pride.
“I still see myself as the little girl, dressed in gumboots and dungarees running around my grandparents’ livestock farm and to now be appointed to sit on the NAMC Council board, an organization that has the power to influence and bring about change in the agriculture sector for the country is by far one of the proudest moments of my life,” she said.
Naidoo said that to have been appointed amongst such accomplished and experienced individuals is deeply humbling.
“As much as I hope to bring to the Council, I have no doubt that I will be gaining the most from the shared experiences of my fellow Council board members. Being a Trade Lawyer and having qualifications that somewhat differ from those of previous council members, I hope to bring deeper insights and a new perspective to the table with regards to agriculture trade, policy frameworks and mechanisms used by NAMC to help bolster the Agriculture sector,” says Naidoo.
They commenced with their duties on June 1, 2021.
“Alongside my duties as a Council Member, I have been appointed to sit as the Chairperson of the Crop Estimates Liaison Committee and the Supply & Demand Estimates Liaison Committee, which deal with Grain and Oil Seeds industries,” she said.
Naidoo was nominated by one of her mentors and dear friend, Adv Tsheko Ratsheko to serve as a board member of NAMC.
“When he approached me with the advertisement published in the newspapers in October 2020 by the department calling on qualified individuals to submit nominations for the NAMC Council board, we submitted on a whim. To be completely honest, I was completely taken by surprise and never thought I would be considered due to my age as well as the fact that more seasoned individuals who would have been nominated.
“But as fate would have it, I was appointed by the honourable Minister Thoko Didiza and Cabinet members. I take great pride in this role and I wish to work closely alongside my fellow council members, to use the power and position wisely to bring about innovative, impactful and purposeful change within the agriculture sector. Now being a member of the Council and the youngest, I hope during my tenure to bring a fresh, new and vibrant perspective to the council board and the NAMC organization,” said Naidoo.
Naidoo previously told Mzansi Agri Talk that she started her career as an aspiring lawyer, having completed her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at Wits University. Thereafter, she landed a legal internship at a reputable South African law firm. During her legal career, she worked mostly in the mining and commercial law sectors, which led her back to agriculture. From her experience at the law firm; she was exposed to the rehabilitation of mines, where agriculture projects were on the agenda. It was then that her interest sparked and she took a deeper dive into the opportunities that the sector had to offer.
“In 2016, after a discussion with one of my mentors about the ins-and outs of the international trade and the opportunities aboard to export South African agricultural produce, the idea came about to look into the export of Avocados. Intrigued by the exponential growth of the avocado exports industry at the time, I started to research the basics about how the agriculture export trade worked.”
This is around the same time she decided to found her company Avoport Pty Ltd – an Agricultural Vendor Operation Portal.
“Driving home from work one afternoon, I was struggling with the idea as how to export Avocados (a highly perishable product) before it perished. As I drove by the airport, a plane flew over-head and that’s when the idea struck me, avocados will be easily and effectively transported via air, hence the name Avoport (Avocado’s plus Airport).
“Through my research, I found that there are major gaps within the agricultural supply chain from farm to consumer in South Africa and across the SADC region. These gaps and errors led me down a path to discover how these could be overcome. Over a two-year period, I dedicated my time to finding out as much as I could about the export industry, how agricultural produce is traded and shipped, where the different agricultural produce is sourced from, the quality and grading of the agriculture produce and where the opportunities and challenges laid within the sector. From a legal background, we know it’s best to cover every angle and that’s exactly what I did when conducting my investigation/research to my road map into the industry as well as how Avoport could make a positive impact on the agriculture sector,” she said.