Family farms crucial to agri production

South Africa’s family farms are part of a global network of 570 million family-owned farms and 56% of all agricultural production came from these businesses, said Harry Prinsloo, chairperson of AgriSA’s policy committee at the Congress on Friday.

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Family farms acted as a springboard for other agricultural organisations and played a key role in the prosperity of agriculture in a transforming society, said Prinsloo.

For this to continue, family farms needed to be productive and efficient. There had been some unfortunate (regional) failures in the past decade or two and organised agriculture in SA had a responsibility to rectify failures and offer support where possible.

“The developed commercial sector forms the backbone of primary agribusinesses, [and] I think we as a commercial sector can provide job creation and ensure food security.”

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Prinsloo said agriculture consisted of three tiers: the developed commercial sector, the developing commercial smallholder sector and the communal subsistence sector.

The uncertainty around land ownership should be resolved very soon because it was counter-productive to prosperity, said Prinsloo.

Labour legislation should be conducive to job creation and job retention; in a favourable environment training and development of critical work skills would increase, he added.

Investment in research and development was also important to the sector’s growth.

Agriculture could contribute more to the country’s foreign exchange earnings if farmers had better access to international markets. This would come with government help in developing new international markets. At the same time there should be a level playing field in the competitive arena of the domestic market, said Prinsloo.

“We do not advocate protectionism and the developed commercial sector has managed to deal with cost increases through maximising productivity and achieving economies of scale, but this is becoming more difficult.”

Developing commercial farmers faced the same problems as the developed commercial farmers, said Prinsloo, but unfortunately this group had been neglected by government. “This sector will be the key to the future success of agriculture and title to their land is one of the most important issues.”