The potential of the agro-processing sub-sector in South Africa is under siege. This paper makes a critical view of this sector by identifying its opportunities and constraints so as to guide its improvement as well as the required interventions to unlock its potential. Given the contemporary issues of exponential population growth and soaring rates of unemployment and poverty, this paper explores agro-processing opportunities that could help to ameliorate the situation. This challenge is complex and widespread, thus a multi-pronged approach is required to address it. The approach used in this study is secondary research that investigates several issues in the agro-processing eco-system including the issue of imports, challenges with some of the government’s plans for the agro-processing sub-sector, consumer advocacy, and factors in the value chain that compromise the effectiveness of the ‘field to fork’ process. The findings reveal some dissonance between theory and practice such as the “million possible new job opportunities” in the sector identified by government versus the reality of only 30 000 jobs created over a ten-year period. To mitigate such risks and to support the government through some of the tricky trade deals such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the role of active citizenry was conspicuous. The global production and consumption pattern have tipped the scales in favour of larger enterprises and this does not augur well for rural development and job creation. Therefore, the exploration of alternative production models such as ‘production sharing’ is paramount as it entails strategic alliances and subversion of the buyer-supplier relationship.
Key words: Agro-processing eco-system, food production and distribution, consumer advocacy, job opportunities.
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