Certain objectives of the Protein Research Foundation (PRF) and its predecessors, including funding of research to achieve specific objectives, date back to 1973. Before 1990, certain other objectives had to be achieved using specific funds, but those were terminated in 1989 to make way for a pure research function and related matters. Those were determined formally in 1990, with the establishment of a research trust now known as the Protein Research Foundation (PRF).
In the earlier seventies, the fishmeal industry sold a significant quantity of fishmeal on the international markets, but fishmeal was classified as a strategic product and local requirements had to be met first, before any fishmeal exports could be considered. The Fishmeal Association was particularly critical of animal feed producers, because of the high quantities of fishmeal included in animal feed. This animosity was no secret and almost gave rise to court actions in 1971 and 1972. Fishmeal producers alleged that soybean oilcake could be used to alleviate the huge pressure on the fishmeal demand. As early as 1972, the Animal Feed Manufacturers Association (AFMA) informed government that as much as 150 000 tons soya meal could be used instead of fishmeal. Global soybean production in 1972 amounted to 44 million tons , of which the USA produced 35 million tons . Brazil produced 3.2 million tons and Argentina only 100 000 tons . South Africa produced a mere 4 600 tons in 1972.
AFMA indeed experienced a shortage of, particularly locally produced, oilcake in 1973. AFMA reported the problem to the Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing, and shortly afterwards a meeting was convened between the Department of Agricultural Economics and Marketing, the Department of Trade and Industry, representatives of the animal feed industry and representatives of the fishmeal industry. The objective of the meeting was, "... to discuss the protein supply position of the Republic with reference to the availability of oilcake and fishmeal in view of the global protein shortage, as well as a possible shortage in the Republic". This followed a decision of 22 December 1972, to establish a so-called "subsidised procurement fund", funded from levies on fishmeal and oilcake. The meeting confirmed the decision and agreed to submit such recommendations.
The fishmeal price was increased by R44 per ton on 6 March 1973. The increase included a levy of R7.50 per ton fishmeal on 125 000 tons. This levy was the start of the so-called fishmeal levy fund, which was a voluntary fund. The objective of the fund was to subsidise imported fishmeal.
The meeting also decided to set aside R500 000 of that fishmeal levy for a separate research fund, namely the Protein Research Fund. The research funds were to be used to promote the production of protein material for animal feed, with particular emphasis on increased production of soybeans and soya cake. As such, it was the origin of the current PRF and its research assignment and dates back to 1973. In 1973, the Minister also decided, in terms of the Marketing Act, to charge an oilcake levy to subsidise oilcake imports. That was the origin of the so-called oilcake levy fund. Thus two funds were established to stabilise prices and one fund was established to fund research.
The subsidisation of imported protein did not materialise. During 1976, about 6 000 tons fishmeal was subsidised at R20 per ton and subsequent subsidisations were rare. There is very little information available about this. Increased imported volumes grew rapidly and subsidisation from available funds would probably have had no or little effect.
In an attempt to make available more oilcake in South Africa, for animal feed, the Oil Seeds Board, established a so-called sunflower parity scheme. The most important condition was that oil produced in terms of that scheme had to be exported, but that the oilcake had to remain in South Africa. Although this measure provided some relief, the sunflower oilcake could never truly replace the fishmeal or even soybean oilcake.
In terms of the oilcake levy to fund the so-called oilcake levy fund, the oil processing industry charged an additional levy of R7 per ton of oilcake sold. Those amounts were paid into the fund, but eventually this burden was borne by the animal feed producer, individual mixer or the end-user – as was actually also the case with the fishmeal levy.
During the same meeting between the two departments and the two interest groups in 1973, the meeting decided to convene a so-called protein study group to investigate matters relating to protein materials for animal feed and submit recommendations to government. There is very little information available about the activities of the study group between 1973 and 1976.
In 1976, the protein study group was converted into the Protein Advisory Committee (PAC). The most important role players were the Departments of Agriculture as well as Environmental Affairs (Fisheries), the Oilseed Control Board, the fishmeal industry, the Animal Feed Industry, the oil processing industry and the South African Agricultural Union.
Until 1978, not much research was conducted. The 1978 AFMA Chairman's report, states, "In view of the increasing problems relating to the availability of fishmeal, it is essential for the farming industry in South Africa to give serious consideration to the stimulation of soybean production". As a consequence, PAC included a standing item in its agenda, "The Encouragement of Soybean Production". At the end of 1978, PAC reported that a harvest estimate of 40 000 tons soybeans was accepted and that it is practically possible to increase production to 100 000 tons in the near future. (It only materialised momentarily in 1989 and 1990. After that it came to fruition from 1997, after the establishment of the soybean working group by the PRF).
In 1983, Dr JG Cloete published a document, "Memorandum of Protein Supply for Animal Production" and submitted recommend-dations to the PAC. Some of the most important recommendations were to strengthen the Protein Research Fund. The recommendation was a capital amount of R2.5 million, using interest and dividends for research purposes. In 1985, the Minister approved payment of the levy funds into the research funds to increase the capital to R3 million. Brief information on the appropriation of funds for research purposes from July 1973 to 1990 is available on the PRF web site.
Having said all of this, it seems that very little was done to stimulate soybean production until 1990. Funds were used for research on various other protein sources, but very little related to soybeans.
On 10 May 1990 a meeting of a so-called "interim arrangement committee for the Protein Research Fund" was convened. In terms of a letter from the Director General of the Department of Agriculture, the protein fund, including the fishmeal and oilcake research funds had to be transferred to an "agricultural research account". In addition, the interim arrangement committee and the Minister decided, "... to establish a Trust fund, with the Protein Research Advisory Committee (PRAC) forming the Board of Trustees".
On 4 December 1990, the Protein Research Advisory Committee held its first meeting under Chairmanship of Dr RD Bigalke. The first meeting resolved, inter alia, that members would report in writing on the short- and long-term protein needs and research requirements. This matter is still being attended to today.
The first PRAC consisted of ten (10) Board Members, plus a secretary. Only one meeting was convened in 1990. In 1991 and 1992, two meetings were convened annually. Three meetings were convened in 1993, four in 1994 and thereafter, six meetings per year. From day one, all work was conducted by the Board members and a secretary, while departmental facilities were used. These included Dr Bigalke's office and the Board Room in the building that later housed the ARC.
After solving several problem points, the Trust, as foreseen by the interim arrangement committee and the Minister, was established in 1994 and the first meeting of the Protein Research Trust was convened on 9 November 1994.
Several commodity trusts, like the Maize Trust, and the Oil and Protein Seed Development Trust (OPDT), were established during 1997, in terms of the provisions of the Marketing Act in 2002, the PRF decided to change its name from the Protein Research Trust (PNT) to the Protein Research Foundation (PRF), to avoid possible confusion with the newly established commodity trusts.
Although the current objectives of the PRF date back to 1973, contributions to funding and subsidising imported protein were suspended in 1989. As such, the PRF Board decided that the official PRF founding date will be back dated to 1990, as the objectives changed to pure research from that date.
GERHARD JH SCHOLTEMEIJER