An up-and-coming Free State miller, Phaladi Matsole, has called on government to amend its intervention strategies to accelerate the development of black grain farmers in the country.
Matsole is the owner of Sebata Maize Milling. He believes that development programmes should empower farmers to not merely be dependent on the next phase of state handouts. It should also inspire others to join the grain industry.
“Development and growth will only come when us, [as] black farmers, start operating the fertiliser and distribution companies in the sector. That will be the only way we can see growth,” he tells Food For Mzansi.
“Government should stop pumping money into the same farmers year in and year out who are doing the same thing without actual development being visible. Black farmers must be shareholders of distribution and fertiliser firms. That will be [real] development.”
The Frankfort-based producer first started farming in a mixed operation in 2009. He later also ventured into milling because he wanted to embrace opportunities in the agricultural value chain. The fact that he had little government support actually enabled him to enlarge his footprint, says Matsole.
“Sebata Maize Milling came as a result of wanting diversification and value add. We currently utilise a private mill with a day shift of 18 employees. We are supplying local retailers, schools… Our clients are in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West, the Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and Lesotho.”
Matsole adds that many grain farmers are currently crippled by rising fuel, electricity and fertiliser prices. Many now have to rely on livestock to stay in business.
“If we, as black farmers, can come together, especially in this industry, and allow our money to rotate amongst ourselves, we will really go a long way. Government only pumps money in white-owned or -led organisations which wants us to go there for training or disperse our vouchers, which means money goes to the same people while we remain with nothing. That is what is holding us back.”
Furthermore, Matsole hopes government will take stock of the bad state of infrastructure in the Free State. Farmers are losing business because, among others, roads are not being maintained. Also, more should be doing to truly transformer agriculture.
“The maize sector is still far from being transformed. The people who control the sector are our white counterparts based on huge volumes they are contributing. We need clear and certain policies that support crop farmers. Without state support transformation will remain a dream.”
He believes there are many untapped opportunities for in agriculture. “Once the sector is fully viable, other farmers can venture into machinery supply, chemicals, seeds, fertilisers, transport, feed making and manufacturing other maize by-products.”
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