Hours before the signing of the much-anticipated Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP), industry leaders caution that its effectiveness is yet to be proved.
The plan is regarded as an important roadmap for future government decisions, and is welcomed by many, but not everyone is convinced that it is a step forward while others warn that ongoing engagement and practical implementation will be crucial in the end.
The coordinator of the farmers’ organisation Saamtrek Saamwerk, Sehularo Sehularo, believes that implementation time frames will be crucial going forward, and that those who fail to implement the interventions as planned should be brought to book.
“We can only hope that the master plan will be implemented with clear dates when to expect implementation.
“Issues that are raised are not new. It is just a repetition of previous plans and goals that needed to be achieved. We will be happy once we see implementation of the plans actually taking place in rural communities. That is where farming is taking place; not in hotels.”
Sehularo calls on government to focus on projects that have been abandoned across the country.
“The master plan must talk to the needs of the farmers. Importantly, the department must tell us how they will revive projects that have been abandoned whilst millions of rand were invested in them.”
‘Master plan should not be signed’
The Transvaal Agricultural Union has a very different position and its general manager, Bennie van Zyl, lambasts the plan in a press release.
The organisation believes that the master plan will throw agriculture to the wolves.
It adds that it is extremely disappointed that anyone at all is prepared to sign off on the AAMP.
“We are convinced that if we, as an organisation, signs off on the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan, we are abandoning every commercial farmer in the country, black and white, because we are putting them under pressure with the wrong kind of policy development.”
Promote public and private partnerships
Annelize Crosby, the head of legal intelligence at Agbiz, says the organisation welcomes the master plan in principle. They hope that, going forward, government will promote partnership engagements between the public and private sector.
“The intention behind the master plan is to promote a meaningful public-private partnership that seeks to establish a globally competitive, dynamic, growing, sustainable, safe, fair and inclusive industry through a range of interventions and programmes,” she says.
She explains that the plan will set time frames for the implementation of some of the interventions and programmes that it documents.
Agbiz was also involved in the drafting process as a government-invited stakeholder.
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede says that the organisation was involved in drafting the master plan alongside other stakeholders. It has always been important to them that the plan would address issues that currently hinder growth and development in the sector.
“The business constituency continues to engage with the government on certain changes that they want [in the sector]. The aim of the plan is to bring about economic growth, but also inclusive growth.
“For us it is important that the plan deals with all the factors that impact negatively on growth. It is important that those factors be dealt with. That is the input we currently provide to government.”
He believes the master plan could help ensure that black farmers benefit from economic growth in the industry but also that they are put in a position which will enable their success.
Mechanisms for implementation
Meanwhile, Prof. Mzuki Qobo, head of the Wits School of Governance, tells Food For Mzansi that “the department of agriculture is working on building institutional mechanisms for implementation of the master plan once it has been signed into law”.
The AAMP consultation process was led by Qobo.
In a previous interview, Qobo said that the signing of the plan was critical. “It has been three years now since we have been drafting this document and, unfortunately, we [can’t] really afford to delay it any further or add just about anything that [anyone] says.”
Key stakeholders and the national minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, will sign the plan at Parliament at midday today.
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