Farmers need more tariff support

Members of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries expressed dismay at the perceived advantage farmers in trading countries have over South African farmers due to the subsidies and tariff protection their governments provide.

- Advertisement -

This followed a presentation by Billy Morokolo, marketing director at the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (Itac) to the committee stating his concerns about the long-term sustainability of unsubsidised agricultural production.
Morokolo told the committee that South African farmers were at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts who benefited from government subsidies.

He said calculated support given by governments to farmers as a percentage of gross farm receipts amounted to 34% in the EU, 58% in Japan, 20% in the US and 6% in China, compared to 5% in South Africa. “The level of global support is gradually rendering unsubsidised production unsustainable and unprofitable,” said Morokolo. Farmers in South Africa found it difficult to compete and government needed to make better use of tariffs to support the local agricultural sector, he said.

Committee members responded with shock and expressed disappointment at the fact that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had declined to be present. “The DTI decided it had no business here today,” said Salaam Abram, ANC MP. Themba Msimang, IFP MP, said Morokolo’s report sent “shockwaves” down his spine. He said government’s reluctance to implement higher tariffs in support of local farmers was destroying the agricultural sector.

- Advertisement -

“For a while I have noticed with concern how many of our farmers move their businesses up into Africa. Now I understand why,” he said. “How will emerging farmers get a foot in the door if they are not supported by the government?” asked Elizabeth Pilusa-Mosoane, ANC MP. Pieter van Dalen, DA MP, said South Africa should not implement severe tariff measures, because South Africa should be an easy country to do business with, but he said government had to offer better support and protection to local farmers.