Agriculture And Food Science And Technology Research

Research and development needs in a country with both First and Third World sectors are diversified and an enormous challenge. Research activities have to comply with the needs of both the resource poor rural communities, as well as the standards set by countries importing primary and secondary food products from South Africa.

Several universities, government institutions, semistate organizations, and private sector companies are involved in research and technology development in the agriculture and food and beverage industries. In agricultural research the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa, a parastate organization, contributes about 65% of the agricultural research capacity, the remainder being from university departments and government stations in the provinces. The ARC, with 13 institutes appropriately situated across the country, caters to the needs of all agricultural commodity research, including in some instances food product and processing technology develop ment. Other institutions with food and beverage research capacities include the Division of Food Science and Technology (Foodtek) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and a number of food science and technology departments at universities and technicons. In addition, many multinational companies in the food and beverage industry operating in South Africa, as well as local meat, dairy, fruit, vegetable, bakery, and beverage manufacturers, have sufficient infrastructure to support product-oriented research, development, and quality control programs. These companies and the government-supported institutions employ food scientists and technologists with both generic and specific training.

To effectively operate as scientists and specialists, they found common ground in the South African Association for Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST). Different scientific societies also promote their sciences and professions and publish research results in disciplinary journals such as the South African Food Review and Food Industries of South Africa, to name only two of the major ones.

It would be impossible in a contribution of this scope to give an overview of research programs or achievements. Suffice it to mention that new cultivars of fruit with consumer-specific attributes and longer shelf life are introduced to the export market virtually every year, that the potentially problematic product cheese whey is reutilized to the extent of 70% in various dairy products, that South Africa is a world leader in irradiated food technology and nutritive enrichment, that an internationally recognized breakthrough was made with the isolation of fungi and mycotoxin on cereal grains and oilseeds, that a guava puree treated with pectolytic enzymes to remove stone cells has captured the world market, that South African wines compete successfully on the international market with leading wine producing countries, that a controlled-atmosphere packaging technique was perfected to facilitate marketing of deciduous fruit throughout the year, that tender lean beef with less than 15% fat is high in demand with tourists, and that various molecules and substances isolated from indigenous and other plants find their way into international pharmaceutical products. These examples show that the food and beverage industry and its research support are on par with those of the developed world.

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