Agri SA and THE National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) fear the newly formed United South African Agricultural Association, which was recently launched in the Western Cape, will further fragment organised agriculture. But the new union said it seeks to do the opposite. “We feel that the agricultural industry has become too fragmented and we hope to represent the interests of all roleplayers from farmworkers to service providers to small-scale, emerging and commercial farmers, irrespective of colour,” said CEO Jeffrey Helm.
Starting out with over 800 members, the union aspires to be a political power in the country, so it can exert more influence than existing organisations over policies that affect agriculture, as well as the funds that are allocated to agriculture and how these funds are spent. Raymond Koopstad has been elected as chairperson and Trevor Abrahams as deputy chairperson.
Helm admitted the union is still small compared to Agri SA and but he believes government is tired of listening to these entities and that it would welcome the entrance of an organisation that’s representative of all roleplayers.n addition, the union is especially advantageous to black farmers and farmworkers. “Farmworkers and emerging farmers are fed up with organisations that know nothing about farming that ‘pretend’ to have their best interests at heart. It’s time to take back the power and speak for ourselves,” Helm said. Willy Williams, the president of Nafu in the Western Cape, called the people who initiated the new union a bunch of opportunists.
“They were all members of and we helped them to get farms and equipment. And now instead of standing together they are doing this. don’t understand it.” He added that he didn’t believe an organisation could represent both white and black farmers, as their needs are totally different.Agri Wes-Cape president Christof Cloete said their organisation can’t prevent people from creating new ones, but he fears that these only contribute to fragmentation in the industry.
“I’m sorry that these roleplayers didn’t come to speak to us, as we would have been glad to incorporate them into our organisation,” he said. loete added that Agri SA is currently in the process of establishing a body to better represent roleplayers in the industry. “We have invited TAU SA, Nafu, the Agricultural Business Chamber and various other roleplayers to become involved in a body to represent the whole industry. By doing so, we won’t reinvent the wheel, but rather make use of existing infrastructure and expertise,” he said. – Glenneis Erasmus
Foreign landownership report not all bad – Agri SA
Business Leadership SA slammed A recent report and recommendations by a panel of experts on the development of policies for landownership by foreigners in SA. It said the findings and recommendations are useless and that they did not provide the information that the agriculture minister had asked for. “There are positive and negative aspects,” commented Annelize Crosby from Agri SA.
“However, we agree with Business Leadership SA that the report fails to address the central question of the extent of foreign landownership in South Africa.” She said Agri SA believes that direct foreign investment in South African land is good. “There are many examples of foreigners purchasing land and investing to develop it to its full potential. This creates jobs and contributes to our economy,” Crosby said.
The organisation’s main concern is to ensure agricultural land remains productive to maintain food security in the country. “We are not so concerned about who owns it,” Crosby explained. Some argue that purchases by foreigners are pushing land prices beyond the reach of South Africans, who have to compete with the strong purchasing power of foreign currencies.
However, foreign investors seem more interested in urban land with a high net value, which is anyway unsuitable for government’s land redistribution and social upliftment programmes. “So the argument that foreign landownership is slowing down land reform or impacts negatively on food security doesn’t hold water,” Crosby said. But the organisation agreed with some of the recommendations in the report such as disclosure of nationality, race and gender, because this would enable South Africa to build a database of landownership.
Many other countries prohibit foreign ownership of certain areas, and this could protect strategic or sensitive tracts of land. Hence, Agri SA was in favour of proper zoning and land planning legislation, as this could help protect high-potential agricultural land from other forms of development.
However, Agri SA disagreed with proposals to restrict the quantity of land that foreigners could own, as agriculture is governed by economies of scale. They also disagreed with the proposal to give government the right of first refusal for land, or the proposal that government should regulate land use or ownership. – Wouter Kriel