AgriSA: Legislation partly to blame for agricultural woes

Legislation is partly to blame for the agricultural sector’s under-par contribution to South Africa’s society and economy, agricultural body AgriSA told the African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday.

Legislation has been implemented with the “unintended” consequence of having a negative impact on agriculture, AgriSA executive director Hans Van der Merwe told a media briefing. This followed a meeting with an ANC delegation, led by secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

This is one of a number of issues the agricultural body raised in the hope that, if adequately addressed, skilled people in the sector who are committed to the country can make a contribution to its well-being.

The ANC said the meeting is part of a campaign to engage with minority communities. AgriSA said it has long sought talks with the ruling party, recognising that it is behind the government’s policy-making.

“All of us want to be part of finding a solution and making this country a prosperous country,” Mantashe said.

Said Van der Merwe: “Unfortunately, agriculture has not been contributing optimally ...
not serving the national economy the way it should.”

He said there are different expectations in different groups in society about what agriculture should contribute.

“Our view is that this debate contributes to polarisation on issues,” he said.

Van der Merwe said that even with competition, first-world economies get more support and protection than the local market. He said a third of the country’s farmers have left the industry in the past 10 years because of “difficult economic circumstances” and perceptions about how they are valued by the government and other role players in society.

It is policies like the now-shelved Expropriation Bill that influence investment in the sector. Legislation such as this had to be looked at, said Van der Merwe.

Mantashe said the Bill is being reworded, revisited and strengthened, taking into account what had emerged in public hearings.

He pointed out that land ownership in South Africa remains “skewed” and that it is only in dealing with this history and understanding the depth of the problem that there will be less polarisation.

He described the openness of Wednesday’s talks as “heartening”.

Also discussed during the meeting were, among other things, the sector’s participation in Southern African Development Community regional initiatives, the small-scale nature of agriculture entrepreneurship, the need for training and mentorship and the importance of risk and disaster management.—Sapa

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