Funding for the training of black cattle farmers is at the centre of a bitter dispute that yesterday led to the “conditional resignation” of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) as a member of Agri SA.
In a day marked by behind-the-scenes boere politics, the RPO said it does not want to wash its dirty laundry in public, but it could no longer keep quiet about perceived interference by Agri Enterprises, an Agri SA subsidiary.
Insiders tell Food For Mzansi that tempers in red meat circles ran high during a live broadcast on Monday, 3 October in which Agri Enterprises lifted the veil on successes with its “Farming for tomorrow” project. Through this initiative, 751 black livestock farmers were fast-tracked to commercial success.
At the time, Agri Enterprises chief executive Omri van Zyl described it as a very important development for South African agriculture because most new era farmers do not have exposure to the right information, data and genetic improvement schemes. “It is very important to create a knowledge economy in South Africa. So, from just that perspective, there’s a knowledge economy gap that we have filled with this project.”
‘Stay off our turf’
RPO chairperson James Faber admits that this briefing was a sore point for some commercial red meat farmers. It was then that the RPO apparently learned that “further interference in different industries” was envisioned by Agri Enterprises.
“Agri Enterprises’ interference at various levels in the industry has created an intolerable situation which is also unacceptable to members of the Red Meat Industry Forum and the Milk Producers’ Organisation,” claimed Faber.
The crux of the dispute is specific funds allocated for the training of livestock farmers – money that the RPO wants to use for the same purpose. Also, the RPO believes that it can do a better job at livestock farmer development than Agri SA.
“There needs to be better clarity about who does what, and which site belongs to whom,” says Faber.
He adds that the red meat industry has a proud record of inclusive growth “and within the newly accepted master plan for agriculture, further interventions are planned which, among other things, point out the red meat industry as a sleeping giant in South African agriculture”.
According to Faber, the RPO first met with Agri SA in May this year to raise its concerns. The organisation remains hopeful that an amicable solution could be found before 1 November, which will lead to the reconfirmation of the RPO’s membership.
“We are not angry and we see the bigger picture,” says Faber.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Faber confirms that the RPO does not expect Agri Enterprises to cease all its farmer training initiatives. “We expect them not to move on our turf and leave our funders alone. We also only conditionally resigned with the timeline of 1 November 2022 [while awaiting answers.]”
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