Agriculture is responsible for its own destiny

Boet, you know how much I dread the annual congress season! But so far this year I’ve been very impressed by the standard of the agricultural congresses.

Let’s take the recent national Red Meat Producers (RPO) congress that was held in Bloemfontein. I left it with a tremendously positive heart. The one thing that sticks with me is the fact that chairperson Lardus van Zyl said one of the organisation’s strong points is its close working relationship with the National Emerging Red Meat Producers’ Organisation.

That is the way it should be. Dualism and fragmentation lead to conflict. Unity is strength. That’s the only way SA’s agriculture sector can ever hope to survive, never mind prosper, in the long run.

Another example is the excellent relationship the RPO has with the Directorate of Animal Health.

Animal Health director Dr Mpho Maja was one of the speakers at the congress and was lauded for the implementation of the new animal importation regulations. That’s the way it should be. We’re all working for the greater good of our country and its people, after all.

Boeta, such a relaxed and mutually appreciative relationship between government officials and a commodity organisation were virtually unheard of a few years ago.

The same emphasis on co-operation also surfaced at the Free State Agriculture (FSA) congress. Ruthlessly honest words were exchanged between the organisation’s leadership and the local agricultural department, but it led to improved understanding.

Both parties acknowledged their interdependence and the fact that sustainability in agriculture hinge on it. Maar jislaaik, my Boet, I think some of the delegates have still not recovered from the bare-boned honesty shown by both sides!

And then we also have the initiative from leading commercial farmers such as Andries Pienaar and Charl Senekal to engage with the decision-makers regarding the way forward for land reform. Hats off to you! These wise men have, in my opinion, pioneered a new and sensible relationship with the powers that be. My hope is that more and more leader farmers will join the process.

As Japie Grobler said at the FSA congress, no country on earth can afford the current dualism in SA agriculture. I salute his plea for unity and deference.

My hope is for a fully integrated agriculture sector based on hard work, economic realities and co-operation. Not something that was artificially created by politicians to gain votes! The sector must create its own destiny.