More than 500 delegates from across southern Africa and the global fresh produce supply chain gathered in Cape Town, South Africa this month for the Produce Marketing Association’s fifth Fresh Connections Southern Africa Conference and Expo.

Attendees heard from USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, who led a session titled “A World of Trade Opportunities,” which addressed the implementation of the recent 10 year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the primary trade agreement between the U.S. and Africa. Harden also spoke at the PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Breakfast focusing on opportunities for women and youth in agriculture.

“As we deal with the challenge of an aging population of farmers and ranchers in the United States and around the world, we will need an all hands on deck approach,” Harden said. “The next generation of those who are willing to take up this extraordinary calling will be more diverse than ever before. Farmers and agricultural professionals, including PMA members, feel a strong sense of responsibility to make sure that there are the tools, resources and mentors there for all people who want to come back to a family farm or start a new farm business. The future of food, fuel and fiber, and the future of our nations, depends upon it.”

Senzeni Zokwana, South Africa minister of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), kicked off the first day of the conference by encouraging delegates to engage with DAFF to grow South Africa’s agriculture sector, especially exports.

“PMA members around the world care deeply about trade and the opportunities for creating business connections. This event highlighted multiple pillars of PMA priorities, including Issues Leadership, Talent Development and Global Connections,” says Richard Owen, vice president of global business development for PMA. “These Fresh Connections events offer personalized settings for our members to connect – both with each other and with government decision makers.”

The event hosted 30 speakers from across the globe and included companies such as Sam’s Club, Pick ‘n Pay, Sainsbury’s, RSA Group, Sysco, Dole South Africa, Syngenta, Goldman Sachs and the Harvard Business School. Speakers drilled in on a variety of areas currently providing opportunity or challenges across the Africa and global fresh produce supply chain.

 More information about the entire series of PMA Fresh Connections events can be found here.