Despite an influx of agricultural imports and an increase in pests and diseases coming into the country over the past 20 years, South Africa has not invested adequately in pest and disease control strategies, says Agricultural Research Council (ARC) president Shadrack Moephuli.
“We have not been able to balance the management of pests and diseases with the speed at which imported agricultural products are coming into the country,” he noted during an ARC public awareness day, in Pretoria, on Wednesday.
Moephuli stressed that South Africa needed a more stringent food control agency that would provide the necessary administrative and coordinating mechanisms for food safety in the country.
“If we had a proper [regulator], we would have been able to prevent the recent deadly listeriosis outbreak,” he said.
He added that it was imperative to increase investment in research and innovation to develop the right diagnostic tools to provide the agricultural sector with the right solutions to combat and prevent pest and disease outbreaks.
He further noted that climate change posed a massive risk to South Africa’s agricultural sector, especially because crops reacted differently to climatic shifts.
He stressed that various pests and diseases were able to evolve and adapt to climate change, and that investing in pest risk analysis was key.
“We need to invest in research and innovation around predictive modelling, which will enable people to take sophisticated data and use artificial intelligence and innovation to predict what the next disease outbreak will be and when it will happen,” he said.
Moephuli noted that policy decisions that would enable real management of pests and diseases were necessary.
“Climate change can be managed if we invest in the right solutions that will help us adjust or adapt,” he said.