New Year’s messages from agri leaders
FARMERSWEEKLY / 01 JANUARY 2019 - 08:25 / STAFF REPORTER
The agriculture sector survived a year of rising uncertainty in 2018, but with the national election and the threat of drought looming, 2019 will be every bit as challenging. According to leaders in the sector, farmers will have to be resilient and partner with the right role players to face the trials that await.
‘We need partnerships’ – Senzeni Zokwana, Minister, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
It is with great excitement that we begin 2019. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has much hope for the country’s economy as a whole, as well as for the agriculture sector in particular, thanks to the renewed certainty that has been unfolding from government since early last year.
The agriculture sector suffered a huge setback last year due to the impact of the drought, which significantly affected our country’s GDP. This shows the critical role that the sector plays in South Africa’s economy.
It would be remiss of me to not briefly reflect on the discourse that has dominated much of 2018. I want to reiterate government’s position that the policy shift on land, especially in relation to land expropriation without compensation, will not result in the confiscation of commercial farms that are producing goods for our agro-food markets. Food security for this country is a fundamental issue, but the issue of land redress is equally important.
It is in this regard that we urge all stakeholders to focus on workable solutions as proposed by government. In terms of land reform, DAFF is working with provincial departments to grow capacity to be able to better respond with post-settlement support to ensure the success of land reform beneficiaries.
But we need to forge partnerships with the public sector and mentorship mechanisms with established commercial farmers.
Another concern is the high unemployment rate in the country.
According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15 to 34 is 38,2%, or 21 million people.
This means that more than one in every three young people are unemployed. This poses a massive challenge for South Africa’s future.
We believe the agriculture sector can make a major contribution in employment creation for young people. The sector is undergoing disruptions occasioned by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with new technologies replacing old methods.
However, to successfully target the youth, there will have to be investment in the sector. DAFF is in the process of finalising the Draft Policy on Comprehensive Producer Development Support.
The policy will be the overall national policy framework for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, and will guide the Census of Commercial Agriculture, which will run from 15 October 2018 to June 2019.
This will also assist us in establishing an up-to-date frame of reference for conducting surveys in the agriculture sector, and help us to clearly understand the national distribution of commercial and emerging farmers and their performance.
We anticipate a good year and consistent recovery of the sector in its contribution to the national economy.
A year of big issues looms for agriculture – Dr Theo de Jager, president, World Farmers’ Organisation
This year promises to be an exciting one for agriculture. In South Africa, politics will dominate our discourse and destiny, especially in the run up to the national election, with the debate around land and expropriation likely to heat up as election day approaches.
On the international front, there are new developments and initiatives that will also impact on how we go about our business, and 2019 might well be crunch time for some of those issues.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has decided to launch a Decade of Family Farming in 2019.
One of the goals of this initiative is to counter the global phenomenon of corporatisation of primary production, where large companies farm huge tracts of land in competition with smaller family farmers, killing rural towns and knocking the smaller farmers out of the industry in the process.
Family farming is one of the most broad-based mechanisms to create wealth where it is needed most: rural areas.
The other big event for agriculture in 2019 will be the Climakers Campaign, a farmer-driven agenda on climate change, which was launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.
The campaign centres on answering these two questions: what can farmers do to mitigate and adapt to climate change?; and what would farmers need to do it?
The third issue that has the potential to disrupt the well-being of global agriculture is the future of trade under US President Donald Trump’s rule.
Whether called a potential trade war or not, the first shots have certainly been fired, and casualties, such as the pork industry in the US, can’t be avoided.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos early in 2019, farmers will take a stand on the impact of trade conflicts on the livelihoods of those who produce perishable goods, and we hope to bring some stability to the discourse on agricultural trade.
We need to convince politicians not to use our products as batons to fight each other when they disagree on issues that have nothing to do with agriculture.
To have the voices of farmers heard, we need strong farmers’ organisations, and broader involvement of individual farmers. The participation of each and every farmer is thus vital.
May you be blessed on the little piece of the planet that was entrusted to your care, and may it reward you and your family with a profitable and sustainable livelihood!
A glimmer of hope – Dr Vuyo Mahlati, president, African Farmers’ Association of South Africa
As we bid farewell to 2018, there is one word that springs to mind: resilience! The resilience of farmers, of the agriculture sector and of the agricultural economy were apparent.
However, black farmers continue to face stumbling blocks as they strive to grow to feed their households and contribute to national and household food security. Despite this, they continue to play their part to be counted as players in the mainstream economy.
Their efforts to succeed also increase their exposure to the failures of agriculture-related systems, which risks undermining their hard work. These include extension services, training centres, land, water, markets and access to finance.
The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) is thus determined to continue pushing for the transformation of the agriculture sector as part and parcel of the broader agrarian reform government policies promote.
AFASA‘s second Agribusiness Transformation Conference, which took place in 2018 and focused on value chain integration and farming as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, succeeded in promoting smart partnerships between investors and landowners and amongst farmers themselves.
This glimpse of hope gives us courage to push forward. As South Africa embarked on the delicate, and agonising, but inevitably long-standing, issue of land reform with Parliamentary public hearings on expropriation without compensation, the leadership shown by various farmers’ organisations through their joint statement on 27 August 2018 is commendable.
Another show of resilience was the GDP growth in the third quarter of 2018 following a slump in the first two quarters. During the conclusion of the 2018 planting season, we saw how climate change continues to be a reality.
To address the challenge of changing weather patterns, AFASA will put in place a contributory insurance scheme to cover qualifying investors and, most importantly, the farming community.
In 2019, AFASA will aim to improve the performance of black farmers by promoting the modernisation and improvement of farming systems through the introduction of improved technologies and efficient use and management of land.
Together we can and we shall!
The views expressed in our weekly opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Farmer’s Weekly.
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER