Organised agriculture should put constant pressure on the state to address problems within the sector. However, it should always be part of the solution rather than just criticising. This is the view of veteran agriculturist Tommie Esterhuyse who retired as vice president of Free State Agriculture (FSA).
Following his retirement from the FSA boardroom last month, Esterhuyse shifts his focus to farming and his family. He concluded an 11-year stint at FSA during the organisation’s congress held on Wednesday, 22 September.
In an exclusive interview with Food For Mzansi, he shares his hopes for the future of agriculture in the province and Mzansi.
Duncan Masiwa: Oom Tommie, you’re a legend and we are certainly going to miss you! How do you feel about leaving FSA?
Tommie Esterhuyse: It was an emotional decision, but I felt satisfied with what we have achieved in FSA. I will miss the team spirit and co-operation within the executive management the most.
When you joined FSA, what were some of the biggest challenges that had to be tackled?
Rural safety of farm inhabitants was the biggest challenge and will always be the biggest. The deterioration of roads [infrastructure to ensure food security] will always be an enormous problem.
The third challenge was to address and assist with disasters such as veldfires and floods. The uncertainty of property rights, for example the proposed amendment of the expropriation without compensation bill as well as Section 25 of the Constitution, causes major uncertainty amongst farmers.
How has the agricultural landscape in the Free State evolved over the years?
I am satisfied with the progress that has been made and that the Free State is still considered the food basket of the country, which contributes to food security. One of my major concerns is that South Africa, which suffers such a high unemployment rate, can only benefit from food production which includes the creation of jobs.
How do you feel about the future of agriculture in the Free State and Mzansi?
I am still positive that we will be able to produce food with grace from above. It is also to remember that agriculture is one of the strongest developing pillars in the economy of our country. Despite all the challenges, the biggest disaster for this country will be if there is a shortage of food. Therefore, I believe there is still a bright future for agriculture in this country.
So, what’s next for Oom Tommie and what’s your final message to farmers and role players in the sector?
I am going to focus on my farming and family. Organised agriculture should keep constant pressure on the government to address problems and always be part of the solution rather than criticising. Mutual trust amongst our citizens will always be important.
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