Government gets serious about farming, food security

There is a growing awareness in government about the importance of the agriculture sector in South Africa and its role in the country’s food security.

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However, there is also a danger that policy decisions about the sector and political uncertainty could have an increasingly negative impact on the industry’s stability and farmers’ ability to produce food.

Speaking at the recent AVI Africa Conference in Johannesburg, Prof Ferdi Meyer, director of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, said government’s willingness to interact with the sector was encouraging.

He commended the departments of agriculture, and trade and industry and and National Treasury for their involvement in the sector. “There is a [growing] awareness of the importance of the agriculture sector and how it’s intrinsically linked to social stability in South Africa,” said Meyer.

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According to political commentator Justice Malala, there has been “increasing reflection” about the impact of government policies on food security and sustainable food production. However, Malala said he was concerned about the government’s ability to make policy decisions when it comes under pressure.

“I’m watching the ANC to see whether populism is making an impact. If populism is infecting policy [decision-making] then you stop thinking about food security,” he said.

Although the country faces numerous challenges, he said, people do not always realise how democratic SA really is.

“I still feel good about South Africa and its future because power is not absolute like in Zimbabwe where the president can do whatever he likes,” said Malala.