Challenges show the resilience of SA farmers
Neo Masithela, chairperson, African Farmers’ Association of South Africa
On behalf of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA), I would like to wish all farmers and farmworkers a prosperous 2022.
Farmers and farmworkers have worked hard for the country, and their contribution cannot go unnoticed. Thank you for sacrificing so much of your time, including time spent with your family, to produce food and contribute to South Africa’s GDP. You did all of this while confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks of animal diseases, and drought.
Without you, this country would not survive. Without you, food security, employment creation and economic growth would not be attained.
Take a well-deserved break and come back next year feeling revived. Be safe!
Throughout 2021 and before, AFASA and others have done all we could in terms of transformation, and are now leaving other partners, such as government, to help contribute to more inclusive agricultural development.
To all AFASA leaders and members, thank you for your valuable input on the Agriculture and Agro-Processing Master Plan.
Make 2022 a year of action
Dr Theo de Jager, president, World Farmers’ Organisation
COVID-19-related lockdowns caused disruption of value chains and linkages to markets, and resulted in changing consumer preferences. These forced many farmers to restrategise and restructure their enterprises to survive and thrive.
Producers felt it in their pockets as input costs, such as those of fertilisers and agrochemicals, skyrocketed.
Farmers also suffered as restaurants, fast-food outlets, school feeding schemes, kiosks and canteens closed their doors, and street vendors stopped selling a quick bite to commuters passing by on their way to work.
People obviously did not stop eating during lockdown, but their eating habits changed; they resorted to family meals, their own cooking, and even their own garden production in those weeks and months when offices and factories were closed.
On the one hand, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 led to surpluses on farms, and millions of kilograms of potatoes and litres of milk had no market destinations. On the other, millions of people, especially in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, lost their jobs, livelihoods, and household food security.
The world’s farmers still produce enough food to feed everyone, but the food is not where the hungry are, and in many cases they cannot afford to pay for it. A fundamental review of our food systems, food production and its impact on nature and biodiversity, and nutrition and health was at the core of the global agenda for the UN and its agencies in 2021.
At the World Farmers’ Organisation, we ensured that the producer’s voice was heard at each of these debates. In 2021, we managed to get the message across to policymakers and consumers that farmers were not the problem; on the contrary, they were the only solution. This is why they deserve a place at the table, and in 2022 we need to give them a voice and implement the solutions we have proposed.
I would like to challenge every farmer in South Africa to make 2022 a year of action. I want to challenge you to take up a commitment towards your farm and your family.
If you can pass on your small piece of the planet to the next generation in a better condition than you found it in, and your action is repeated by farmers everywhere, we will solve 90% of our biodiversity, conservation, pollution, land degradation, and climate issues.
As farmers, we know exactly what we can do better, so let’s do it! It all starts with soil health, and it’s in our hands.
May 2022 be the highlight of your farming career.
Agriculture: the light at the end of the tunnel
Theo Boshoff, CEO designate, Agbiz
As 2021 draws to a close, I wish to congratulate the men and women in the agriculture sector for their tremendous dedication and perseverance. This past year was truly a year of extremes. With the easing of some COVID-19-related restrictions, the economy slowly emerged from the pandemic, but it didn’t do so unscathed.
The unemployment rate reached a record high in 2021, which, in turn, affected consumers’ buying power. And with the emergence of the third wave of COVID-19 infections, subsectors such as the wine industry continued to battle disruptions and restrictions.
Despite these difficulties, the broader agro-food value chain performed remarkably well. South Africa exported a record 161,1 million cartons of citrus fruit, there was a 9% year-on-year increase in apple and pear exports, and the country produced the second-largest grain harvest on record. These achievements showcase the resilience of the agriculture sector and its partners.
My thanks must also go out to the role players up and down the value chain that link our products with global markets. It is a testament to what we can achieve through social dialogue and co-operation, and we certainly hope to build on these relationships in 2022.
The ongoing collaboration with stakeholders in the logistics sector has been critical in ensuring a steady flow of agricultural exports, regardless of domestic and global constraints. This is an area that needs increased attention in 2022 and in the years to follow, bearing in mind the export-oriented nature of South Africa’s agriculture sector.
Finally, with COVID-19 still a threat, we should be mindful not to let our guard down, as subsequent waves could reverse the gains achieved in 2021. We must continue to take all necessary precautions to protect ourselves and our families.
From the Agbiz team, we wish the exceptional men and women of the agriculture sector a blessed and restful festive season.
The year that saw farmers unite
Francois Rossouw, CEO, Southern African Agri Initiative
The world will remember 2021 as the year in which we failed to bring COVID-19 under control, and saw the disruption of businesses and value chains, and contentious vaccination debates and campaigns.
As food producers, however, farmers were granted a special dispensation. Moreover, the markets were good to us, there was newfound appreciation for good-quality food and the awareness of the link between it and health, and the world recognised that people can live without nearly everything they thought was a necessity, but no one can live without food.
This was also the year of the UN Food Systems Summit, the G7 Summit on Nature and Biodiversity, the CBD COP15 Summit on Biodiversity, the COP26 and its pre-summits on climate change, the G20 summit on zero hunger, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit, all of which focused on the restructuring of agriculture and value chains.
Animal-based proteins were under severe pressure from big companies who believe they can replace these proteins with plant-based alternatives, and who exploited the global multilateral platforms to promote that agenda.
While South African farmers were preoccupied with land expropriation without compensation, farm attacks, and draconian policies hampering investments and competitiveness, some of the global anti-livestock campaigns affected our region too.
Campaigns against trophy hunting, breeding practices in dairy, cages, chains and animal rights already have consequences for local producers on international markets. The debates and pushback are facilitated by farmers’ organisations, and there has been very little involvement from government.
Government was also largely absent from disaster relief efforts that kept more than 1 000 farmers in the drought-stricken Karoo and the fire-stricken western Free State on their farms. The initiative saw a variety of organisations rendering tailored assistance to affected farmers.
Thankfully, some of these regions received good rain early in the season, and there are significantly fewer farming families that still need to be supported until the next rainy period.
In the face of poor service delivery and failing state functions, these do-it-yourself programmes will be the order of the day in 2022. Agriculture has a lot to look forward to in the New Year because of South African farmers’ resilience, resourcefulness and open-heartedness for colleagues in need.
May family farming thrive in 2022. May it be profitable and rewarding, and may the policy environment improve in order to anchor the sustainability and growth of the farming sector!
Looking to the future with hope
Bennie van Zyl, general manager, TAU SA
Another year has passed, and farmers and agricultural organisations are reflecting on 2021. But they are also looking forward with hope that things will be better in 2022.
Looking back, there are always things to be positive about, which we’re grateful for.
However, crime and corruption, for example, have become part of our daily lives. The prevalence of crime has meant that many people are mourning those who have been taken from them. Sympathetic words won’t change this reality; however, we hope that these bereaved families will find the love and support they need.
We hope the same for all those who experienced any form of trauma in 2021.
In the midst of all the troubles South Africans experienced this past year, farmers still managed to produce food. For this, we give them our everlasting gratitude.
Nevertheless, a new era will be ushered in with the arrival of the New Year. Our attitudes will play a major role in how we tackle the challenges that 2022 will inevitably bring. The choice to be positive is a personal one, and it brings out a new, creative and future-oriented approach.
South Africa needs many solutions to its highly complex realities. Our prayer is that as we look to the future, all decision-makers will realise that the only lasting source of power is in
God. With that knowledge, let us pray for sincere humility and strive every day to magnify God’s Kingdom here on earth.
May 2022 be a year in which we can all look back with positivity and deep gratitude on the many blessings that we often take for granted.
Pushing on through a difficult year
Christo van der Rheede, executive director, Agri SA
As 2021 draws to a close, many of us are relaxing with our loved ones, let us spare a thought for the farmers and farmworkers who not only provide our festive food, but feed us throughout the year.
This year was an eventful one, especially for agriculture. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with climate change and political turmoil, has placed the sector under enormous strain.
Despite this, agriculture is expected to be a key driver of economic growth and post-COVID-19 economic recovery, both locally and internationally. While South Africa’s economy has seen a decline since the onset of the pandemic, Statistics South Africa found that the agriculture sector showed the highest growth in the second quarter of 2021.
Many challenges came to the fore during this year, including brutal farm attacks, drought, devastating veld fires, corruption and the collapse of the Land Bank and other state-owned entities, not to mention the global economic recession caused by COVID-19.
In the face of these challenges and an uncertain future, I urge you to stay positive: continue working hard, plan ahead, and ensure that you manage the setbacks brought on by these obstacles to the best of your ability.
There are many expectations of what the agriculture sector should contribute to food security, job creation and rural development amid the challenges of uncertainty around transformation, the social upliftment of worker communities, and security risks.
Most important, however, is keeping up sustainable and productive farming to ensure food security, not only in South Africa, but beyond our borders.
My view is that every successful commercial producer, no matter how big or small, makes an indispensable contribution to this cause.
I wish to thank all those who supported Agri SA and me in my personal capacity in 2021: Agri SA’s loyal members, farmers, farmworkers, industry players and stakeholders.
Thank you too to our business partners for their contributions that supplement our means to deal with priorities. We also thank the media for sharing a special relationship with agriculture and for reporting on important agricultural matters.
A special word of thanks to everyone who contributed to Agri SA’s Disaster Relief Foundation, which made it possible to help farmers who are suffering as a result of the aforementioned challenges.
I believe that 2022 will be a year full of opportunities. To be successful in agriculture, one
should be realistic about the volatility of the sector, as well as other threats in the natural and market environments. One should also avoid excessive risks, yet take full advantage of opportunities.
And now we welcome a New Year, with prospects that we have never seen before. I wish every member of Agri SA, the entire farming fraternity and all of Farmer’s Weekly’s readers a prosperous 2022.