Because of the strength of the South African rand and opportunities to introduce new products, it’s prime time for doing business in South Africa, according to J. Gregory Higgins-Yali, director of marketing and international trade at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

           Mr. Higgins returned last week from visiting Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa since Dec. 3 on behalf of Georgia companies and the Southern United States Trade Association, a non-profit agricultural trade development association comprised of the departments of agriculture of 15 southern states and Puerto Rico.

            “With the rand now valued at six to $1, which is double what it was a year ago, it’s prime time for U.S. exporters that want to do business there,” Mr. Higgins, who headed a delegation of three companies on the visit, told GlobalFax. A lower dollar makes U.S. exports less expensive for South African buyers.

            The companies represented included Atlanta-based Worldwide Marketing Inc., a distributor of fine wines and liquors; Shore Genetics Inc. of Baltimore, a specialized exporter of livestock genetics and Virginia Natural Beef Inc. that is located in Lexington, Va., and exports beef, fish and poultry free of hormone additives.

            Although no contracts were finalized, Mr. Higgins-Yali said that letters of intent were signed and that contracts would follow contingent on pricing agreements.

            He compared South Africa’s gross domestic product to South Carolina’s annual gross state product of $120 billion and said that local firms willing to conduct the research would find opportunities to introduce new products and to successfully compete with European firms experiencing an increase in the value of the euro.

            “For example, many goods such as sauces, biscuits and other specialty food items come from the United Kingdom and are being sold at premium prices,” Mr. Higgins-Yali said. “Georgia suppliers should be able to compete with them now.”

            He also pointed to commodities, such as turkey cuts, whole chickens, offals, juice concentrates and other products available in the Southeast, such as muscadines, peanuts and pecans as having potential to enter South African markets successfully.

            Despite recent trade debates over U.S. chicken cuts flooding the South African market, there still are many opportunities for certain chicken cuts, he added. He also referred specifically to a South African company seeking poultry cuts certified according to “halal” Muslim practices that would be re-exported throughout the African continent.

            The 15-hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg is a non-stop flight that should not put off companies from seeking to do business there, he said. The Johannesburg airport is a hub for flights to other African cities, he added.

            In addition, he said that the South African government recently has reduced tariffs and export subsidies, cut taxes on corporate dividends, loosened exchange controls and improved enforcement of intellectual property laws.

            Mr. Higgins-Yali may be reached at (404) 656-3740 or send an email to  HYPERLINK