Chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), Wandile Sihlobo reiterated the urgent need to ensure that South Africa’s Agriculture and Agro-Processing Master Plan (AAMP) is implemented.
Speaking during the PSG webinar focusing on factors that are standing in the way of maximising South Africa’s agricultural industry, Sihlobo said that even though the plan has not been implemented to its full potential, one million jobs can still be created at the primary level.
“I think the master plan is still fit for purpose, let us treat it as a recovery plan. The environment has changed since the drafting of the master plan, but instead of going back to the drawing board let us work with what we have.
“We need to ask ourselves how we can readjust the master plan, let us fix it while we are creating a sustainable agricultural sector,” he said.
Sihlobo said role players are continuing to throw their support behind the plan, but implementation needs to take place. “The support is still there, if anything, the people are saying we have been sitting with this plan for far too long and we need to get going with it.”
Sihlobo said the master plan if implemented, has the potential to unlock land that is currently not being used in South Africa for agricultural purposes.
“I think the government and particularly the minister of agriculture need to make sure that three things happen for the master plan to start flourishing.
“Firstly, gather all the social partners around the table, and acknowledge the energy plan. Then explore the sustainability of the sector given the huge impact of load shedding on the industry.
The issue of land
“The Issue of land needs to be addressed. The President in his State of the Nation address in the year 2021-2022 mentioned land reform. How soon can that be launched? Because the state is sitting with four million hectares of land and only two million has been audited,” he said.
Sihlobo said it was a matter of urgency that the land that was in possession of the state be released for agricultural purposes.
“The third thing that government need to do is to look at how we broaden blended finance [because] financing in agriculture is very important.
“Once all are in place, we can look at commodity by commodity and say how can we better such commodity. I believe that putting all this together will enrich us as a country,” he said.
A piece of the agricultural pie
Sihlobo said it was important to grow the agricultural pie so that more role players come to play in it instead of sharing it bit by bit.
“Importantly, we are a sector that is export-orientated, so if you grow products without emphasising the exports market then it’s a losing battle which needs its own focus as well,” he said.
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