It is imperative that the national Agriculture and Agro-Processing Master Plan provide targeted support to farmers of all types and sizes in South Africa. It should also ensure that poorly developed agricultural areas become attractive to public and private investors.
This was the message earlier today (Thursday, 14 October) from agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza at Agri SA’s 2021 virtual congress.
The two-day congress, themed “Survive and thrive in the future, the agricultural way”, kicked off on Thursday morning.
Speaking on the key implementation areas of the master plan, Didiza said that agriculture played a crucial part in the country’s economic recovery and job creation efforts.
Her frank speech highlighted the importance of taking a value-chain approach in order to provide targeted support to farmers of all types and sizes.
“More importantly, it needs to expand on the district development module to ensure poorly developed agricultural areas such as communal areas of Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape attract public and private investments to expand production and job creation,” she said.
Supply challenges to be addressed
Didiza confirmed that – at this moment – different social partners contributing to the master plan are “finalising their commitments”. This will explicitly specify the roles and contributions of government and business in implementing the interventions which are aimed at growing the agriculture and food sector in an inclusive manner.
“This compact social approach will help ensure that we are not just writing plans that will end up in libraries. Instead, we have a chance to implement these ideas,” Didiza told the major stakeholders in the agricultural sector who attended the event.
Didiza further said that she was aware of the frustrations of industry leaders around continuous logistical challenges, both inland and at ports. Apart from the master plan touching on these issues, government is also engaging with stakeholders in the logistics sector to help ease the resultant friction within supply chains.
“We are also mindful that focusing on boosting production without a deliberate focus on expanding export markets will be a futile exercise in the long run.
“Hence, we have included trade in the master plan, and my office will also be working closely with the minister for trade, industry and competition to prioritise market access for our agriculture and food products in essential growing and populous countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Japan and Saudi Arabia, among others,” Didiza said.
Land reform: avoid tension and conflict
Pointing to land reform, Didiza acknowledge that there had been little progress and that the programme was overwhelmed with challenges. She further stressed that it was imperative – for all of us as a country – does not create tensions and conflict among stakeholders at a local level.
“Rather, we should all be worried about how we can ensure … access and … support for those who are already on the land in order for them to succeed.”
In her speech, she thanked the leadership of Agri SA and the broader organised agricultural community for working together with government “so brilliantly” over the past year to sustain the sector.
She hopes that a similar collaboration would continue, subsequently ensuring the implementation of all sector growth plans drafted in the master plan to address unemployment and to ensure transformation and growth in the sector at the same time.
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