We might be in a recession‚ but at least our farmers are doing well
Agriculture in South Africa is weathering the economic storm‚ despite a recent recession.
This is according to agricultural industry body AgriSA‚ which recently approached the auditor general and public protector to investigate claims that funds earmarked for the relief of farmers affected by drought were underspent by 30%.
Hamlet Hlomendlini‚ AgriSA’s chief economist‚ said even after the worst drought since 1992‚ the agricultural sector has shown strong signs of resilience and continues to play a significant role in SA’s flailing economy. Although the sector shed 44 000 jobs in the first quarter of this year‚ “it remains critical for the country’s labour market‚ particularly rural”.
Hlomendlini said timber and fruits‚ mainly for export‚ contributed to the growth in the agricultural sector.
“The big producers have also been affected by drought‚ but they made contingency plans to protect their crops. The rand has not been doing very well for some‚ that has benefited the exporters. We’re likely to see the same thing going forward.
“The downside is that these producers may downscale local production and focus on export.”
Hlomendlini said given the demand for South African fruit in the world’s markets‚ “it is fundamentally important that for strategic growth in the sector‚ new entrants be encouraged and incentivised to grow some horticulture products”.
He said it was imperative that government make agricultural development a national priority.
“For sustainability purposes‚ young people have a huge role to play in the sector. It is therefore important that government also develop a strategy for the elevation of young people in agriculture.”
Hlomendlini said the biggest impediment is land.
“Land ownership is paramount in this instance.”