The much awaited 15th BRICS Summit and attendant dtic-BRICS Business Council (BBC) events have been held from 13-23 August 2023. Heads of state from all BRICS States except Russia are attending in person, together with business and governmental delegations. The BRICS Summits allows the agribusiness sectors across BRICS an opportunity to profile agriculture and agro-processing and seek agreement on measures and commitments to facilitate trade.
The much awaited 15th BRICS Summit and attendant dtic-BRICS Business Council (BBC) events have been held from 13-23 August 2023. Heads of state from all BRICS States except Russia are attending in person, together with business and governmental delegations. The BRICS Summits allows the agribusiness sectors across BRICS an opportunity to profile agriculture and agroprocessing and seek agreement on measures and commitments to facilitate trade.
BRICS Business Council structures include a number of sectoral Working Groups (WG). The 2023 Agribusiness WG is chaired by Wandile Sihlobo, and comprises representatives of agribusiness from all five BRICS members. After a number of pre-Summit meetings, the Agribusiness WG on Monday this week made recommendations to the BRICS Business Council AGM.
Agribusiness WG recommendations:
The following points were presented by the WG Chair with the support of agribusiness from the five BRICS members:
i. The advancement of agricultural trade amongst the BRICS countries through the lowering of tariffs and the promotion of products.
ii. A focus on intra-BRICS sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures and processes to improve trade within the group.
iii. BRICS also intend to improve fertiliser availability and use amongst BRICS countries and the broader African continent. This entails addressing tariffs and promoting information sharing amongst various producers and users of fertiliser within BRICS, and greater Africa.
iv. BRICS countries to work to share best practice of sustainable agricultural development and climate smart agriculture.
The BBC Global Chair then presented the points from the various sectoral member groups to the Presidents of the BRICS countries for discussion. Once the governments have decided what will be adopted, the various countries’ government departments would start with relevant technical work.
One of the key focal areas for the agricultural sector to foster trade is SPS coordination and administration. Prior to the Summit and BBC meetings Agbiz Fruit and Agbiz submitted a SPS proposal on Intra-BRICS SPS Coordination to the dtic and DALLRD. This was met with provisional support.
The proposal is that intra-BRICS agreement be reached on deeper coordination on SPS administrative processes. This would not be a trade agreement, but an agreement on administrative cooperation and coordination. None of the proposed coordination aims to reduce necessary SPS technical processes or procedures related to plant, animal or human health. The idea is to facilitate the expansion of intra-BRICS agricultural product trade and SA as host can thereby contribute towards building a commercial side to BRICS. It will advance the commercial interests of SA agri exporters, given that the alternative option of Free Trade Agreements carries attendant timelines and risks to other sectors. Such SPS approvals are often extremely long winded, for example access for SA apples to China took 15 years to conclude, and for pears the process took 19 years. Access for Indian mangoes to SA took 13 years. China and India have already during 2023 expressed support for greater coordination around SPS matters and processing.
The concept further falls within the BRICS Business Council’s Shared Trade and Investment thematic area, specifically to:
• “Foster regulatory harmonization to increase trade between member countries”; and
• “… identification of trade barriers within specific industries, and Recommendations on how these barriers may be overcome through multilateral or bilateral solutions.”
Initial trade outcomes for agriculture from the Summit
The Summit has already delivered trade outcomes for some agricultural sectors, with bilateral deals signed for market access for SA red meat and avocadoes , between SA and China. These sector have been attempting to secure such access for a number of years (10 years for avocadoes), with SPS considerations a key hurdle.
Room to improve trade balances
These efforts are geared towards improving the trade balances SA has with its BRICS partners.
As observed by Agbiz in previous Newsletters and member briefings, South Africa is a small player currently in terms of BRIC(S) member states global agricultural imports. Other BRICS members in turn account for a relatively small share of South Africa's agriculture exports – an average of 8% over the past 10 years in annual average SA agricultural exports of US$9,9 billion went to BRIC. As Agbiz’s Chief Economist has observed before, BRICS imported an average of US$241 billion worth of agricultural products from the world market annually over the last decade. The US$764 million imported by the four BRIC countries from South Africa over the same period on average thus makes South Africa a small player in the agricultural trade of this grouping – with significant room to grow! Such expansion will improve our trade balance with other BRICS states.
In terms of All Products traded across the economy (manufacturing, agri, chemicals etc.) SA currently runs a positive balance with the World, but a negative trade balance with BRIC, and all individual BRIC states as can be seen in the table below:
With respect to Agricultural Products (excluding agroprocessed products), SA currently runs a positive balance with the World, a small negative trade balance with BRIC, and negative balances with Brazil and India, but runs a positive trade balance with China and Russia.
The aim of SA agribusiness has therefore been to build on the momentum created over successive BRICS Summits and use the expanded policy space offered by the increased focus on agribusiness at the 2023 15th BRICS Summit, to strengthen trade with our BRICS partners. This also goes a long way towards achieving a key trade policy goal of the sector, namely to diversify SA’s global trade profile, not at the expense of its traditional exports, but in addition to them.
The expansion to BRICS announced at the summit whereby Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are to become members, will offer further support for access by SA agri products to the markets of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where SA already has a presence.