How 5% translates into 22 900 jobs

Western Cape agriculture minister Cobus Dowry says agriculture will play a vital role in helping the state achieve its 6% economic growth target. However, poorly coordinated land reform, access to foreign markets and the Chinese threat remain challenges.

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Agriculture is one of the few sectors that can play a great role in helping government achieve its 6% economic growth target – increased agricultural production will increase employment opportunities and income. The deciduous fruit industry will play an especially vital role due to the large amount of foreign revenue generated through exports. It’s estimated that an increase of only 5% in the export of certain agricultural products would add 22 900 job opportunities to the Western Cape, and only 41% of these would be in the primary agricultural sector. Land reform and BEE: doing it right G overnment has identified land reform and BEE as a priority in agriculture because of its role in creating social, political and economic stability.

This, however, does not mean that commercial farmers must be replaced by emerging farmers. Rather, we must find innovative ways to break the shackles that are preventing the industry from making available new market opportunities to the benefit of all roleplayers. T he pace of land reform until now has been slow. In the Western Cape only 83 000ha of land has been transferred in the past 12 years. Last year, however, 125 000ha was transferred due to improved attempts. Unfortunately, this still falls short of the 383 000ha, which the province has to transfer per year to reach its 30% target by 2014. E nsuring the success of initiated projects is vital for both commercial and emerging farmers. Our focus must be on sustainable empowerment, and not on putting as many people as possible on land. herefore, mentorship and private-public partnerships have been identified by the Western Cape agriculture department as the cornerstones to establish sustainable emerging producers.

As partners we should build a framework that creates success stories through active involvement, which should then be told to the world to raise awareness. Also, we need to invest in efficient human capital development and create an environment conducive to business. As partners we need to source investment for development programmes, create research and technology bases that will address this group’s needs, develop products, stimulate new markets and facilitate market entries. he current institutional setup lacks the capacity to effectively represent the interests of particularly emerging farmers. A key element in the capitation of emerging farmers would therefore be to integrate them into existing grower associations, as the Deciduous Fruit Producers’ Trust has done.

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The troubles at home he difficulties local producers have to face, foreign subsidies and import tariffs, also need to be addressed as this negatively impacts on both commercial and emerging farmers. he high level of domestic and export support that farmers in developed countries receive, puts local farmers at a disadvantage on an exceptionally unequal playing field. This creates quasi competitiveness which is a clear threat to both commercial and small-scale farmers. C hina in particular is becoming a threat. It is currently planting huge volumes of apples and is predicted to soon flood Europe with its produce, which is one of our main export destinations for apples. China recently also indicated that it wanted some ostriches from SA. However, it didn’t want to buy live birds, but wanted fertilised eggs.

SA has to protect its agricultural industry or it will soon have no viable markets or farmers left on the land. Making food safety a priority Demands of food safety and export protocols are also increasing and are threatening South African exports. Food safety in SA has traditionally been subservient to the availability of food. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that food safety issues should receive higher priority. here are rumours that the EU might ban meat imports from SA. This would have a devastating affect on the ostrich industry, as over 90% of its products are exported to the EU. Losing this market will not only result in reduced income, but many people will lose their jobs. F ood safety should not only receive priority to maintain export markets, but it’s also becoming more important on the domestic front. – Glenneis Erasmus |fw