SONA 2019: President Cyril Ramaphosa
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa addressing Parliament during his annual State of the Nation Address. Photo: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

South Africa’s agriculture sector is well-developed, resilient and diversified. This forms a solid foundation for job creation, developing emerging businesses, enhancing food security and attracting foreign investment.

In his State Of The Nation Address, at the annual opening of Parliament, Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the strategic value of agriculture as one of the key parts of the country’s economy that are labour-intensive, and that are receiving specific attention from his government.

He said that the potential of agriculture in South Africa for job creation and economic growth still remains largely underdeveloped. “South Africa still has large areas of underutilised or unproductive land. There are around 250 000 small, emerging farmers who are working the land and need support in fully developing their businesses.”

Ramaphosa says agricultural exports are an important source of revenue for the economy, and developing the agricultural sector is key to enhancing food security and for attracting investment.

He emphasised that the government’s policy and legislative interventions aim to ensure that more land is made available for agriculture, industrial development and human settlements.

“Through an accelerated programme of land reform, we will work to expand our agricultural output and promote economic inclusion.”

The president announced that land parcels owned by the state have been identified for redistribution in order to accelerate land reform.

“Strategically located land will be released to address human settlements needs in urban and peri-urban areas. As part of the stimulus package in agriculture, we have invested significantly in comprehensive farmer development support to ensure that restituted and communal land is productively utilised. We will continue to prioritise targeted skills development and capacity-building programmes for smallholder and emerging black farmers.”

Expropriation without compensation

Addressing the issue of land expropriation without compensation, Ramaphosa applauded the Constitutional Review Committee for their work in sifting through the submissions that were made by ordinary South Africans and their organisations.

He says, “We will support the work of the Constitutional Review Committee tasked with the review of Section 25 of the Constitution to unambiguously set out provisions for expropriation of land without compensation.”

The report from the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform, which is working alongside this Constitutional review process to fast-track land reform, is expected by the end of March.

Other note-worthy points

  • Ramaphosa said that government will continue to focus on high-value agricultural products with export potential, such as the fruit, wine and vegetable industries, as well as poultry and red meat.
  • He is expecting spin-off for agriculture from efforts to boost the numbers of tourists visiting South Africa. “In addition to direct jobs, this export industry (tourism) could generate as many as 2 million more jobs in food and agriculture, construction, transport, retail, and the creative and cultural industries by 2030.”
  • He also mentioned that farm schools will be among those receiving digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device over the next six years. The program will be rolled out starting with the most historically disadvantaged areas, including rural and farm schools.