‘Agriculture department to focus on reform, market access’

The newly formed Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development under the leadership of Minister Thoko Didiza, is still in the process of assessing the various programmes and competencies that have to be incorporated into the new department.

The newly formed Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development under the leadership of Minister Thoko Didiza, is still in the process of assessing the various programmes and competencies that have to be incorporated into the new department.

READ Agri sector welcomes new minister Thoko Didiza

However, according to Didiza, who delivered the department’s budget vote address in Parliament recently, it had already been established that as part of the reorganisation process certain “requisite skills” would have to be brought into the department to strengthen capacity within those institutions that were critical for service delivery purposes.

One of the focus areas for the new department would be to “work together to open up the sector, create opportunities for the historically disadvantaged groups, and make a concerted effort in growing the sector on an inclusive basis”, she said.

“We need to be genuine and deliberate in transforming this sector.”

Didiza bemoaned the fact that 25 years after South Africa’s first democratic election, black South Africans who were historically excluded from meaningful participation in the agricultural economy, still lacked representation in the country’s “highly concentrated” food value chain.

READ ‘Fresh produce markets must remain relevant’

In this regard, she said, the commercialisation of black farmers remained an important objective in the transformation of the country’s agricultural sector.

“Better policy instruments will be developed in order to articulate what form of support government will give in this respect,” she said.

In addition, Didiza said, her department would assume the responsibility of revitalising land that was awarded to restitution beneficiaries, as well as support farmers settled on state land, and those in communal areas.

READ Farmers urged to participate in the Producer/Farmer Register

In order for the farming sector to sustain and increase its contribution to the country’s economy, the department would also focus on facilitating access to new export markets.

“The opening up of markets in countries such as China for beef and fruit is just one example of the growth opportunities that we can maximise.”

According to Didiza, together with the Minister of Trade and Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, her department had agreed to work on the following matters:

  • engaging South Africa’s trading partners to increase exports of those products for which South Africa has comparative advantage;
  • developing an agribusiness master plan for the country;
  • relooking how government could better enable the growth and competitiveness of the local poultry industry;
  • and preparing South African agribusinesses for the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

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