The South African government is planning to focus its efforts on helping smallholder farmers gain greater access to markets in the year ahead, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Briefing the media here over the weekend on the 2017 plan of action of the International Co-operation, Trade and Security Cluster of departments plan, she noted that South Africa’s agricultural, forestry and fishery exports increased by 18 per cent last year to make the country a net exporter of such products.

During the briefing, which followed President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address to Parliament here on Thursday, Minister Molewa said the level of investment in agriculture increased by 9.6 per cent in 2016.

“We are focusing on increasing market access for smallholders through the implementation of the South African Good Agricultural Practice and through intra-African trade,” she said, adding that.

trade between South Africa and its traditional partners in the West, meanwhile, remained a significant contributor to the economy.

“The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) came into force in September 2016, thus providing new market access opportunities for South African products.

Almost all South African products (about 99 per cent) will have preferential market access in the EU, compared with about 95 per cent under the Trade Development Co-operation Agreement (TDCA),” she added.

“About 96 per cent of the products will enter the EU market without being subjected to Customs duties or quantitative restrictions. The other 3.0 per cent will still have access, albeit partial, that is similar or improved compared with the TDCA.”