Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil has called on government to protect family farm businesses which, he says, form the backbone of agriculture. If not, the country will continue to lose much-needed skills and experience that can help move South Africa forward.
Moments ago, while addressing delegates at the organisation’s virtual congress, the retiring president reiterated that it was in the national interest to protect family-owned businesses “to utilise the intellectual capital for the benefit of all. We should not create so much insecurity that we export the intellectual capital by way of emigration.”
Vercueil warned against “small politics” while addressing land transformation. “To get to the answer [of] whose responsibility it is to… address these challenges, it may be prudent to ask if the responsibility excludes anybody.”
Inclusive economic growth
Also, organised agriculture should question whether it truly supported a vision that would result in inclusive economic growth. “Why is the progress so slow or close to non-existent and based on making a noise, whipping up emotions and delivering little? I’m convinced that the track record shows that after 27 years nobody can be happy about what we have today.”
He then highlighted some of the many challenges Mzansi faces today. These include poverty, food-insecure communities, a population that is growing faster than the economy, security problems and climate change.
This creates a climate of negativity, said Vercueil. He likened the public discourse about land reform and transformation to “waving a red flag”. Instead, it should be about “inclusive growth and patient capital”, as envisioned by the Agri SA leadership.
“It’s obvious that we have non-negotiables,” said Vercueil.
“We believe that private property rights [and] the willing buyer [and] willing seller approach is non-negotiable. We believe this is the cornerstone of economic growth, but over and above that we also have to find some solutions.”
‘Failed agriculture, failed state’
Also, many controversial bills are currently on the table. This includes amendments to Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation, custodianship of land, the deeds registries amendment bill, the land court bill and labour tenancy claims.
“The question that comes to mind is whether we can serve agriculture – the country and our members – by being on the defense at all times. Up to now, this has not really worked. It is good and well to go to court and to use the courts on matters of principal. The fact is that we also have to find solutions to these questions,” he said.
These solutions depend on role players agreeing on the manner in which land reform should be approached.
“How do we get inclusive growth? How do we make it possible for new farmers to enter agriculture? How do we utilise the blended finance scheme? Let us change what must be changed. How do we make things work and deliver results?”
If we do not do this, warned Vercueil, “we will surely lose what we have. A country with a failed agriculture, is also a failed state. We as farmers also have the responsibility to make things work and not to leave implementation to those who do not have the knowledge and the expertise to make decisions and implementation on our behalf.”
Advocacy alone cannot solve the country’s challenges, he added. “It is about shaping the future of agriculture. Enabling is about shaping the future and we say that we enable farmers without prejudice.”
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