Racism, politics must be kept out of farming – Salam Abram

Government appointments made according to political favour, rather than ability, is one of the biggest problems facing the agricultural industry.

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“This is why agriculture is struggling,” said Salam Abram, ANC MP serving on the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Portfolio Committee. “The bulk of the portfolio committee knows precious little about farming,” said Abram, speaking at the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa’s (AVCASA) gala dinner. “This is a problem because those introducing new laws don’t understand the logistics of farming. When an irrationality is pointed out to them, they first want to have an indaba to clarify the issue.”

Abram said that while bad decisions and impractical laws passed by government had a negative impact on commercial farmers, the impact on small-scale farmers was devastating. “Some farmers have to stop farming altogether because they can’t afford to comply with unnecessary laws.” He noted that agriculture was not an easy industry to be in even without problems like farm murders. “If we in SA can get to a point where everyone realises that farmers are people who help put food on the table, then we would have achieved something.”

Abram added that there were farmers willing to open their hearts and make heavy sacrifices for land reform to work, but that the government was intent on implementing socialism. “They are buying up land and then renting it out to developing farmers who must prove their worth in order to keep farming. But the farmers get no mentorship and assistance so they don’t progress.”
According to him, this has an impact on commercial farmers as abandoned farms are a security risk providing opportunities for predators and thieves.

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Abram said that there was a lot that government could do to ensure greater food production. He noted the example of prisoners involved in farming activities at certain jails. “This should be expanded to all jails. Each prisoner costs the taxpayer R6 000 a month. At least, if they farm they are productive. “But we sit with commissioners who are political appointments and, like the majority of government officials, will give you all the reasons in the world why they can’t do something and not one reason why they can,” said Abram.