No deal yet’ says TAU SA after food price consultation

The Agricultural Business CHAMBER (ABC), TAU SA, the National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) and Agri together with the national agriculture department, have pledged to join forces in the fight against food insecurity and high food prices.
Issue date : 22 August 2008

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The Agricultural Business CHAMBER (ABC), TAU SA, the National African Farmers’ Union (Nafu) and Agri together with the national agriculture department, have pledged to join forces in the fight against food insecurity and high food prices. The decision was taken during the consultation on the food prices held in Polokwane recently. Agriculture minister Lulama Xingwana described it as an unusual but long-awaited move to form a united and prosperous agricultural sector.

It will be a rocky road But only a week after preliminary resolutions were made public, cracks in the process started to show, with TAU last week issuing a strongly worded statement citing several fundamental differences of viewpoint between it and government on the role of agriculture. AU president Paul van der Walt identified land reform as the major stumbling block to an agreement. According to Van der Walt, it’s being threatened that a revolution will result if land is not transferred to landless people. But, he said, government should mentally prepare for a similar revolution if sufficient food is not available to the nation.

In the meantime TAU SA has entered into an arrangement with Xingwana that the department and the union will discuss the matter urgently to determine both their differences and their common ground. “It won’t be an easy process but we’re working on a common goal,” Xingwana said. She said they would also be looking at sustainable solutions. AU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl said his organisation proposes land which is currently available should be utilised before commercial farmers in production are removed from their land.

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“Vast tracts of state-owned land, as well as high-potential land in the former homelands, are not properly utilised and should be viewed as first priority for upliftment and improved production,” he said. “It’s estimated that land in government’s hand totals 24 million hectares, with 3 million hectares belonging to the former homelands. “Commercial farmers are removed from their land as a result of politically driven projects and replaced by people who, according to current indications, are unable to sustain the required levels of production,” Van Zyl continued.

“There are sufficient opportunities available in the country without government having to pose a threat to commercial farmers.” Other farmers’ unions reacted more positively. Nafu felt many positive resolutions were made at the meeting and is optimistic about Xingwana’s new point of view on agriculture. “She’s taken a positive stance on the future of agriculture,” commented Nafu’s communications head Hanlie du Plessis. Agri SA president Lourie Bosman agreed, saying that it was good to see the minister taking a proactive step in terms of land reform. “We feel a new page has been turned in agriculture,” said Bosman.

“Cabinet ministers are also ensuring that the focus is where it should be.” Bosman added that this declaration, however, only addressed one pillar of the sector plan, namely participation and access to markets. “You can’t only address one pillar in isolation. Participation and market access can’t be achieved without the pillar of competitiveness and profitability.” – Peter Mashala and David Steynberg

Exodus of Namibian farmers from dairy industry looms

The longstanding crisis in the Namibian dairy industry has claimed another victim. A big producer, representing 7% of the industry, has closed shop. Japie Engelbrecht, president of the Namibia Dairy Producers’ Association, said in a local newspaper another 14% of farmers were ready to call it quits if the situation doesn’t improve.

 Because of high input costs, especially rising transport and fuel costs, dairy farmers have not been able to fill their quotas to the country’s only milk processor Namibia Dairies (Pty) Ltd. The processor faces a 13% shortage and has to import milk from SA. But it’s doubtful that these imports are sustainable, as SA also experiences fluctuations in its dairy industry.

A recent price increase gave farmers a glimmer of hope that the downward trend would be temporarily halted. They now get R4,30/â„“, which should enable them to produce more, said Engelbrecht. But this is not good news for consumers, as this is over and above last year’s shock increase of 50c, which kept the industry from collapsing. – Servaas van den Bosch