Streamline SA agriculture policy to enable growth and job creation

October 1, 2019

BUSINESS MAVERICK / 30 SEPTEMBER 2019 - 15.59 / WANDILE SIHLOBO

 

 

Agribusinesses and farmers have in various forums expressed a willingness to collaborate with the government in growing South Africa’s agricultural sector. This willingness should be welcomed as it promises to address some of the challenges at farm level, including skills transfer, access to finance and links to market.

 

South Africa’s agricultural policy growth path has been clear as far back as 2012 when the National Development Plan (NDP) sketched higher growth potential and labour-intensive sub-sectors that could create jobs and increase the sectors’ contribution to GDP.

 

 

 

 

One such subsector was horticulture, which among other subsectors had the capacity to grow and create employment along the value chain, including off-farm and in agro-processing.

Seven years after the NDP was crafted, nothing has fundamentally changed this viewpoint, and if anything, the global demand for horticulture and protein-rich food products has increased notably over this period. With this, South Africa’s agricultural exports have also increased, amounting to $10.6-billion in 2018, representing a 17% increase from 2012, the year of the release of the NDP.

 

The gains have largely been underpinned by the subsectors that were identified as potential drivers of South Africa’s agricultural economy – namely horticulture as already discussed, as well as wine and grains, among others. But the growth in exports has not been evenly distributed from a geographic and spatial point of view. In fact, growth has been concentrated in traditionally agriculturally active areas, while the former homelands have seen sporadic improvement over time.

 

In my field visits in the Eastern Cape last week, I interacted mainly with new-generation farmers with the objective of understanding the developments at farm level in the province. The constraints that came out repeatedly were not different from those expressed by agribusiness firms and farmers in other provinces. These included lack of access to finance, challenges regarding land governance in the communal areas, access to water, need for farming advice (effective extension services) and poor infrastructure.

 

This means that if South Africa is to attain its rural economic growth and job-creation ambitions, the country does not need to re-invent the already-stated vision of creating vibrant rural economies. Rather, the focus needs to be on crafting specific strategies which seek to resolve the prevailing constraints that hinder progress, such as the aforementioned ones from Eastern Cape farmers.

Targeting specific bottlenecks entails effective co-ordination between established agribusinesses, farming enterprises, communities and also government (national and local).

This approach is premised on the assumption that there is universal buy-in on the vision articulated in the NDP. However, often the message and vision at national government levels by political captains of various departments have not been received with the same level of enthusiasm at local government levels. This is an area which requires improvement.

 

Agribusinesses and farmers have on various forums expressed a willingness to collaborate with the government in growing South Africa’s agricultural sector. This willingness should be welcomed as it promises to address some of the challenges at farm level, including skills transfer, access to finance and links to market. 

 

There are areas where this approach has started to bear fruit. Within the Eastern Cape, the blended finance approach of provincial government has sparked agricultural development in lands that were underused for decades, and thus increasing value and creating extra jobs.1 In the Free State, livestock farmers have also started collaborating with emerging black farmers with the aim of bringing them into the formal market and growing the industry. The government has also supported some of the initiatives through the Jobs Fund.2

Fortunately, this public-private partnership approach has been revived in government policies, with the National Treasury’s recent economic policy discussion paper highlighting the need for a joint-venture approach to drive development in South Africa’s agricultural sector. This should receive increased focus in the coming months as its success would ensure that the bigger ambitions articulated in policy papers actually translate to development at farm level and communities.

 

There are, of course, broader policy questions such as land reform policy and water rights which will need to be attended to concurrently with other development strategies. Even these specific areas require the realisation that in order to attract investment into agriculture, property rights are key.

Overall, the path for growth and job creation has been clear for some time. What is needed is an increased effort in co-ordinating strategies and programmes that address specific constraints and bottlenecks, which will deliver the bigger goal. BM

 

1 Here we are specifically referring to the Co-Op (an agribusiness) development projects, which cover citrus, lucerne, pineapples, livestock, blueberries and papers, among other agricultural commodities.

2 We are specifically referring to the Sernick Group (an agribusiness) development initiatives.

 

-----

 

LINK :  https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-09-30-streamline-sa-agriculture-policy-to-enable-growth-and-job-creation/

 

Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

SUPPLIER / VENDOR BEE CERTIFICATES

February 19, 2020

1/5
Please reload

Recent Posts