What Agri SA expects from government

Prior to the state of nation address due to take place on 13 February and with political parties gearing up for the general election, Agri SA has released a statement reminding political leaders about the sector’s potential to further contribute towards development. It also highlights areas of vulnerability and offers solutions.

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The National Development Plan and other government policies acknowledge the role agriculture plays in job creation in rural areas and along the value chain, Agri SA said in a press release. Apart from its valuable contribution towards trade and the generating of foreign income, local food production was and still is essential for maintaining national food security, a situation that should be “treasured and enhanced”, it stated.

Natural resources
In most rural areas commercial agriculture is still the dominant economic activity around which secondary development takes place. “It is foreseen that this situation will prevail for the foreseeable future,” said Agri SA. “South Africa is, however, not endowed with an abundance of high potential agricultural land and water resources.”

This dictates circumspection when it comes to policy decisions which influence the allocation and utilisation of such resources. “The effective management thereof by relevant authorities at all levels should be a priority.”

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The sector acknowledges the need for transformation and looks forward to a constructive partnership with government to effect such changes. There are, however, areas of concern, noted Agri SA.

The re-opening of land claims will inhibit investment due to uncertainty of future ownership; collateral values will be negatively affected if government deviates from paying market values for land; and statutory arrangements with regards to the labour market accelerate the use of labour-saving practices.

Agri SA has previously stated that it felt that less direct intervention and an assisted market approach is the preferred option when it comes to finding solutions for these issues.

Sustaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the agriculture sector “should be at the core of policies and programmes aimed at growing the future contributions of the sector,” said Agri SA.

“The competitive edge of the sector depends inter alia on its cost of doing business, access to efficient and reliable infrastructure, access to cutting edge technology and information and efficient disaster risk management.”

Trade issues also need to be dealt with. This includes tariff policies, complying with international norms and standards relating to animal and plant health and the review as well as optimal utilisation of existing and future trade agreements.

The continued prevalence or crime and violence in rural areas remains unacceptably high. With the widespread disrespect for law and order in the country in mind, Agri SA appealed to government to strengthen its resolve in “seeking and implementing appropriate solutions and also to set an example in this regard.”

Agri SA said the restoration of acceptable levels of economic growth represents the ultimate solution for South Africa. At the same time, a social development model is needed to train prospective entrepreneurs to ensure the establishment of a larger small-business sector as well as skilled employees.

“Such an approach will ensure a more even distribution of wealth and reduce the number of households primarily dependent on government grants,” said Agri SA.

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