South Africa is abuzz with activities as leaders of the five-member BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — began a three-day summit in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 22 August 2023 with the agenda of expanding the club as an alternative to a geopolitical alternative to Western-led forums such as the Group of 7.
The latest assembly of the BRICS leaders has sparked international interest at a level not witnessed since its formation 14 years ago. Collectively, BRICS nations contribute over a third of the world’s agricultural output and this could even be more after Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia expressing interest in joining the coalition, which will further add to the diversity of the BRICS bloc, accounting for 40% of the global population and a quarter of the global economy.
Agriculture featured as one of the headlines during the BRICS Business Forum in Sandton, Johannesburg, given the industry’s transformative shift, propelled by the integration of technology which has been pivotal in reshaping and modernizing the global agriculture. The evolution of the industry promises to increased food security and presents an opportunity to reduce costs and promote sustainability.
Notably, this paradigm shift could pave the way for Africa to become the world’s food basket. The integration of technology enhances food security and presents an opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, presenting a path towards de-carbonization and food security.
The 2023 BRICS Business Forum discussions on sustainable agricultural development and the promotion of trade and investment within the agricultural sector across member nations featured esteemed voices from various sectors who shared insights on the potential impacts of technology in agriculture.
Jai Shroff, Chairman and Global CEO of UPL, and a member of the BRICS Business Council from India, emphasized the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector. Shroff advocated for rewarding farmers for adopting sustainable practices, suggesting that such incentives could catalyze a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Beyond carbon credits, he proposed rewarding farmers either monetarily or by offering improved shelf space in stores as a means to drive sustainable behavior.
Bruno Ferla, Vice President of BRF – Brazil’s leading animal protein producer and largest poultry exporter – stressed the role of technology in meeting the growing food demand. He highlighted how technology can optimize resource allocation, such as water and soil, and improve livestock management. Ferla urged BRICS nations to embrace technology and play an active role in shaping global agricultural policies.
In the words of Ferla, “Everyone wants a seat at the table, but what’s the point if there’s no food on the table?” He emphasized the need to strike a balance between various factors while providing quality food at an affordable price. This sentiment underscores the importance of aligning sustainability efforts with consumer demands.
Vladimir Nosov, Head of Competence Centre: PhosAgro in Russia, highlighted the multifaceted challenges facing the agriculture sector. He advocated for smart products, including bio-fertilizers and eco-efficient solutions, to address these challenges. Nosov’s insights shed light on the innovative strategies required to enhance agricultural productivity sustainably.
Sharing China’s strategic agricultural approach, Jun Lyu, Chairman of COFCO Group, China’s largest food processor, manufacturer, and trader, shared the county’s unique perspective. Despite limited arable land and fresh water resources, China plays a pivotal role in global food provision. Lyu emphasized the strategic use of technology and innovative methods that have contributed to China’s success in agricultural production.
These discussions underscored the transformative potential of technology in modernizing the agricultural industry. As the world looks toward a future marked by both challenges and opportunities, embracing technological advancements remains paramount for a thriving agricultural sector.