Agriculture is set to play a major role in South Africa’s development, as the National Development Plan proposes the sector can create 1 million of the 11 million jobs government plans to create by 2030.
The plan, which has been 18 months in the making, was created by the National Planning Commission (NPC) under the leadership of Trevor Manuel, Minister in The Presidency.
The vision of creating 1 million jobs through agriculture was first expressed by Prof Mohammad Karaan, dean of the Faculty of AgriScience at the University of Stellenbosch and a member of the NPC. Earlier this year the media quoted Prof Karaan as saying the sector could create 969 900 jobs if the right policies were in place and with the right support.
Prof Karaan said he asked the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy to do a study in its Baseline 2011 report which showed that, given reasonably conservative estimates of available arable land and irrigation water, the agricultural sector could create these 1 million jobs.
The plan also focuses on the development of small-scale, labour-intensive agriculture, which includes industries such as macadamias, pecan nuts, rooibos tea, olives, cherries and berries.
The NPC’s other suggestions include expanding irrigated agriculture by at least 500 000ha and developing strategies to give new entrants into farming access to markets and product value-chains.
The plan suggests that close to 600 000 jobs can be created by developing more subsistence and small-scale farmers and through better use of redistributed land, especially in communal areas. Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, said the sector has the potential to create a million jobs, but certain conditions apply.
“If there is no state intervention, the sector will never create 1 million jobs. For farmers to remain competitive on the global market, they have to cut costs and improve productivity through mechanisation, so they will need incentives to convince them to rather make use of manual labour.”
He explained that according to the World Trade Organisation’s guidelines, South African farmers could receive up to R4 billion in direct state subsidies. “If the state wants farmers to employ more workers it will have to provide incentives, in the form of subsidies, to the labour intensive sub-sectors” such as the citrus, table and dried grapes, subtropical fruit and vegetable industries.
The plan calls for labour legislation to be eased in order to hire and fire workers more easily. – Denene Erasmus