Tough year ahead for agriculture

The AGRICULTURE Department had a rough 2010.

A wildlife importation scandal, R17 million spent on a series of farmworker summits (more the labour department’s domain), and a mishandled Rift Valley fever outbreak were among the bigger stumbles, while many of agriculture’s core problems – farm security, the breakdown of research capacity and the threat of mining – continued to worsen. Three commentators discussed the challenges that lie ahead in 2011.

Salam Abram, ANC MP and farmer:
“A financing model to keep people on the land is essential. You can’t expect developing farmers to work successfully with loans at commercial interest rates. We’ve also neglected our research institutions in the country for too long.”
 
Lourie Bosman, DA MP and farmer:
“The sector’s profitability is under pressure, and we need to seriously start looking at the protection of some of the commodities through the World Trade Organisation framework. “Other concerns include improving rural infrastructure, farm security and the damage done by unregulated mining. Most worrying is the department itself – we have a director general with no background in agriculture and a serious lack of expertise in general.”

John Kane-Berman, South African Institute of Race Relations CEO:
“The fundamental flaw in government’s approach to land reform and agriculture is its ambivalence toward white farmers. Sometimes their vital contribution is acknowledged, but hostility often boils over. Compound this with pervasive corruption in the land reform process, ignorance about agriculture, excessive faith in the state’s regulatory wisdom, and emotional antipathy toward private enterprise, and the risks of damage to one of the world’s most successful and entrepreneurial farming sectors are considerable.

“Our rulers seem to think that white farmers need to prove their bona fides, but the bona fides of the ANC and the government are the ones that are really open to question. “A little more zeal on the part of the government and its police force in combating farm murders is one of the ingredients necessary for the establishment by our rulers of their own bona fides.”