The Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa, with support from CBI, organised the first National Conference on Natural Ingredients on the 17th and 18th of November in Pretoria. The conference brought together companies operating in the sector, including raw material producers, processors, exporters and final product manufacturers with representatives from the public sector and academia. In different sessions, each with key speakers and a panel discussion, the 180 participants discussed opportunities and actions at different levels of the value chain: sustainable sourcing, processing and commercialisation. They also considered the business enabling environment: looking at legislation and research and development.
Together with CBI institutional development consultant Jim Tersteeg, IN2NI consultant Robbie Hogervorst provided key support in advance of the conference in terms of strategy and content development, speaker selection and guidance. Furthermore, during the conference he moderated sessions on sustainable sourcing, processing and commercialisation to identify and strategize action points together with the panellists. He also brought in key insights from earlier strategic conferences held in December 2014 and February 2015, where the sector was brought together at a regional level.
In terms of legislation, he provided a presentation showing how both South African and EU legislation are based on similar international guidelines, treaties and standards to facilitate international trade in ingredients. Such understanding is important as it allows stakeholders to identify compliance gaps between the different regulatory systems and to strategize accordingly. This viewpoint will also prove useful in other sector interventions as it provides a starting point for discussions between private and public actors when looking at realistic options to improve the business enabling environment. It also helps to manage expectations on what can be done within the international context.
In a follow up round table, a select group of stakeholders considered the outcomes of the conference. Stakeholders included the responsible ministries of Trade and Industry, Environmental Affairs and Science and Technology, public funding institutions, frontrunner companies and sector organisations. In break-out sessions the stakeholders identified priority issues and solutions for sector development. These outcomes will be analysed and used to provide input for a draft export strategy for the South African natural ingredients sector, which will be presented to national stakeholders early 2016. Key is to broaden the public sector involvement to ministries active at the raw material production level: the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Small Business Development, which is mandated to develop cooperative structures in agricultural areas to kick-start rural development.