Food security a higher priority than transformation

Government’s handling of land reform and agricultural transformation has caused too much uncertainty for commercial farmers, and the sector as a whole needs to be thinking about how to produce food for a growing population in a sustainable way.

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This was according to Grain SA CEO Dr Kobus Laubscher, a panelist at the Standard Bank Mind the Gap Business Breakfast held during the Agri Mega Week.His fellow panelist, economist Dr Roelof Botha said transformation should not be a higher priority than ensuring food security. They agreed that agricultural transformation had reached a critical point where the state no longer had money to buy land for transformation, while money that was available is being wasted on unsuccessful projects.

Despite this, there was reason for optimism said Botha. “Household consumption, retail expenditure and real disposable income have all seen a share recovery since the recession and there has been exponential growth in the number of people consuming added-value food products.”

This is true for most of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), he added. He also noted plans are in the works to manage the SADC region in the same manner as the EU by 2017. These plans include the introduction of a single regional currency and less-restrictive inter-regional trade agreements. “When emerging economies in the SADC region start requiring more food, farming will become a scarce and sought-after skill,” he said. “And the South African government will have to start creating incentives to keep South African farmers in the country.” 

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