A small group of South African farmer organisations are dissatisfied with the recently signed Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) and has decided to come up with a “true agricultural master plan” of its own.
As work begins to push the official plan to its implementation goalpost, the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TLU SA), the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI) and sympathetic industry organisations are working on compiling a document that suits them better.
But the executive director of Agri SA, one of Mzansi’s biggest agri organisations and signatory to the AAMP, firmly stands by the official plan. Christo van der Rheede calls the rejection of the signed plan “unfortunate” and adds that everyone involved in the process is working hard to implement it for the betterment of the sector. He feels that anyone aggrieved by it needs to take it up with national minister Thoko Didiza.
“All representatives were given fair opportunity [to have their proposals heard],” Van der Rheede says.
“The Transvaal union was part of the talks all along and, yes, it is their right not to sign. However, a majority of the organisations [involved] signed the master plan.”
Why TLU SA did not sign the plan
In a media statement issued in May, shortly after the signing of the official plan, TLU SA said that their organisation had been deprived of the opportunity to contribute to a plan “for the benefit of all farmers in South Africa”. The organisation alleged that it had submitted several requests to various role players in the value chain but to no avail.
In another statement, issued a few days ago, the organisation now says that “the plan is not inclusive, and apart from the individual signatories, there were no opportunities to provide input”.
TLU SA’s main objection is that the plan is “not inclusive”, not “driven by economics” and “only subordinated to a transformation agenda”.
“[Our] farmers feel that profitability, sustainability and efficiency of agriculture are more important than transformation and believe that their subordination to transformation is precisely the cause of the collapse of state-owned enterprises, public health and so many municipalities,” the statement reads.
The organisation and its partners admits there were commendable elements in the official plan but says that making it dependent and subordinate to transformation “abandons the goal, betrays the farmers, and leaves the plan useless”.
AAMP implementation already underway
Van der Rheede, on the other hand, says social partners who shook hands on the AAMP document are all working towards implementation “so that it does not end up on shelves”.
He says the master plan does address issues of profitability as well as critical aspects like the state of roads, ports, market access, infrastructure challenges and electricity supply. “There is no way agriculture will survive without these matters being addressed.
“The master plan importantly speaks about inclusive growth because we want to see black farmers growing in the [sector]. The master plan also seeks to ensure that even farmworkers benefit from it, so it does address all that.”
Van der Rheede adds, “We believe that we have engaged all relevant stakeholders on the master plan. Everyone must support what the sector seeks to do, to build an inclusive and growing sector.”
Meanwhile, a public awareness campaign has since been launched by TLU SA to encourage participation in the “new master plan draft”.
The organisation says that it plans to process inputs, compile a draft and send it to participants for completion. It then plans to send a final, “more inclusive” plan to the state and signatories of the AAMP.
Its general manager, Bennie van Zyl, says they hope to have a less political and more “economic-driven” plan in the end.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.