Tension is mounting over the finalisation of the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) which, according to Afasa, could be signed off by minister Thoko Didiza as early as Thursday.
Once signed off, the plan is set to become the roadmap to, among others, improved agricultural production, the finalisation of land restitution claims and farmer training. The two-year long AAMP consultation process was led by Professor Mzukisi Qobo, the head of the Wits School of Governance.
Afasa tells Food For Mzansi that it was “shocked” to hear that Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, was scheduled to sign off the master plan this week. It is based on extensive research and consultation with agriculture stakeholders, government, civil society, labour organisations and commercial enterprises.
“In our view, we regard the engagements on the AAMP as still ongoing and there are certain areas where we deem change is empirical in the draft document,” says Afasa president AJ Mthembu. “Upon receiving an invitation to the signing of the AAMP … we felt compelled to firstly engage with the minister.”
During the State of the Nation Address parliamentary debate in February, Didiza indicated that work on the AAMP would be wrapped up soon. At the time, she said the plan was needed for the agriculture sector to grow inclusively and boost employment opportunities.
According to Mthembu, senior Afasa representatives met with Didiza earlier this week to raise their dissatisfaction with the AAMP document “in its current form”. This was preceded by a two-day Afasa executive council meeting which concluded that the proposed master plan was “not entirely convincing on how it will be implemented to fast-track transformation in the agricultural sector.”
Afasa believes that the document was not “explicit” about a number of issues, including:
- aggressive land reform and issuing of title deeds to beneficiaries of PLAS farms.
- the transfer of irrigation water rights to black farmers, as well as the verification and validation processes of water licences throughout the country, especially in catchment areas.
- clear targets on the participation of black farmers across the agriculture value chain.
- the initial proposed development schemes through which to operationalise the AAMP.
- how targets were going to be financed “as the proposed blended finance has not worked since its introduction three years ago”.
However, Mthembu reiterates that Afasa was willing to co-sign the AAMP on Thursday if their latest contributions to the much-anticipated master plan were to be included.
According to a government-issued document, the plan is complementary to the poultry and sugar master plans. It “advocates for a co-existence of commercial and emerging farmers to promote the agricultural and food sectors on a new growth trajectory that can ultimately contribute to taking South Africa’s economy out of the middle-income trap.”
Furthermore, Afasa calls for a commission of enquiry on the demise of the Land Bank. The organisation believes the bank should be rejuvenated through treasury financing with the goal of supporting the development of black farmers.