GEORGIA MEETS AFASA DELEGATION TO EXPLORE AREAS OF COOPERATION
08 Jun 2013
On Saturday morning, Georgia's Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr. David Natroshvili met with the delegation of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) to explore opportunities and areas of cooperation between smallholder farmers of South Africa and Georgia's agricultural sector. The meeting was held at Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.
The Minister was accompanied by Ambassador of Georgia to South Africa, Mr. Beka DVALI as well as a representative of South Africa's Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO), Mr. Thando Dalamba.
AFASA's delegation was led by President Mike Mlengana who was also accompanied by founding Executive Director of AFASA Dr. Langelihle Simela and Head of Communications & Stakeholder Relations Mr. Siyabulela Makunga.
The Honourable Deputy Minister Natrosvhili expressed his appreciation of the work of AFASA and highlighted the importance of cooperation between his government, the South African government and key role players in the agricultural sector.
"Our first historic visit to South Africa gives us an opportunity to highlight our rich geo-political history as we seek to consolidate the gains of our diplomatic relations with South Africa, so as to ensure that Georgia grows to become a business Paradise of the Eastern Europe. We can only do this by growing 20 years of our diplomatic relations with South Africa through exploring trade areas of cooperation between Georgia and the agriculture industry in South Africa", he said.
Georgia's first Deputy Minister of Agriculture was in South Africa from 3 June and he has already met with his counterpart Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Dr.Peter Mulder, TAU-SA, South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also visited City of Tshwane's Fresh Produce Market.
According Deputy Minister Natroshvili, Georgia boasts of being World’s best in banking services, have close to zero crime rates and is recognized globally for having the lowest corruption index.
"Georgia has attracted a huge interest from foreign businesses across the world. These businesses have now set up their satellite offices in Georgia. Our country is a gateway and regional economic hub to European markets. In Georgia we have tax free laws for all companies trading in our country and exporting to our neighbouring Eastern European countries," he added.
His Excellency, Ambassador of Georgia to South Africa Mr. Beka DVALI further highlighted that Georgia is of the oldest countries having existed for 3000 years.
"Our country had similar but slightly different socio-economic challenges to South Africa. Historically disadvantaged groups in Georgia did not come about through racial lines but socialist economic system we had in the USSR for over 70 years. We were impressed to establish that AFASA’s strategic objectives talk to almost similar challenges confronting our historically advantaged farmers in Georgia. We look forward to establish strategic relations with AFASA and where possible sign a Memorandum of Cooperation," he said.
The delegation also pointed out that tourism and livestock production, gas and energy are among Georgia’s leading and fast-growing industries. Georgia has a population of over 4 million people.
AFASA's President Mike Mlengana expressed great delight to the Honourable Deputy Minister, His Excellency the Ambassador and Georgia’s government for honouring a visit to South Africa and showing interest "in the work of South Africa's biggest farmers' union for smallholder farmers, AFASA."
"We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Honourable Deputy Minister and the Georgia government for honouring a visit to our country. Your visit to South Africa could not have at better time than a time when we are fortifying our efforts to bring about real value to our members. In close cooperation with government we are engaging aggressively with our counterparts across Africa and Europe to establish value-adding relations with potential to provide direct and maximum benefits to our members, who are predominantly rural farmers. Our agribusiness and strategic relations with countries like Belarus and Germany are living testimonies to this noble cause,"Mlengana said.
"As we appreciate our socio-economic and political history of racial and economic divide, we commend our government for its resolute stance to bridge the gap between black and rural smallholder and established white commercial farmers. Such efforts will ultimately create conducive environment for us to go back to the land and work the land, to produce food that will feed South Africa while creating en masse decent and sustainable employment for the rural poor. By so doing, we will ensure that we end poverty and ensure that we build an agricultural economy with potential to reduce food insecurity and unemployment," he said.
Mlengana also told Georgia delegation that AFASA is currently driving unity amongst all South African farmers irrespective of their colour and ideological standing.
"As we appreciate our historical differences, we are determined to unite all farmers, black and white, to speak in one voice, particularly on cross-cutting challenges that are confronting the sector like diseases, stock theft, government policies, etc. AFASA has championed the establishment of a federal and unitary body of all South African farmers' unions, the Agricultural Sector Unity Forum (ASUF). Through ASUF, we will be able to work with our government and other foreign governments as one unitary voice of all farmers" he said.
AFASA's Head of Delegation further noted that the Association welcomes the Georgia's invitation to establish areas of cooperation but emphasized that AFASA sought to form value-adding relations with practical partnerships of mutual beneficiation. He hinted on training, capacity building, farmer exchange programmes and value-chain agribusiness ventures as possible areas of cooperation.
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His Excellency, Ambassador of Georgia to South Africa, Mr. Beka DVALI
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