Agriculture vital to SA’s economy

Government has reaffirmed its unwavering support to the agriculture sector, and pledged to do everything within its means to ensure its sustainability and growth.
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, said Agri SA has helped government to create sound policies and programmes to support the sustainability of agriculture in South Africa.
She said agriculture is vital to the economy as the goods, products and services the sector produces feeds the nation.
“Agriculture is also one of the economy’s best performing sectors in terms of contribution to gross domestic product,” the Minister said.
Didiza was delivering the keynote address on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Agri SA Congress 2022 held at the Maslow Time Square Hotel, Pretoria.

Agri SA was established in 1904 and has become the biggest group of agricultural organisations in South Africa with membership, including provincial affiliates, commodity organisations and corporate members.

The 2022 congress is an opportunity for the agriculture industry to deliberate on the challenges it faces and to showcase achievements, opportunities for growth and solutions that will foster food security and contribute to broader economic development.
“As we implement the national Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, the agriculture sector is our valued partner. The development of growth-enhancing measures, such as the sectoral Master Plans, would also not have been possible without close collaboration.
“The Poultry and Sugar Master Plans were the first steps, culminating in the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan that was signed by social partners in May this year,” Didiza said.
She said that importing goods that could otherwise be produced domestically is a lost opportunity not only for the sector’s growth and expansion, but for job creation.
The Minister called for the strengthening of the local value chains so that localisation translates to more business opportunities up and downstream, as well as decent work for the people.
She said Agri SA has also been key to support private sector investment into the sector, as shown by the commitments made by the industry at successive South Africa Investment Conferences.
Despite its outstanding performance, Didiza said that agriculture faces a number of challenges.
At a global level, she said, the ongoing conflict in Europe has disrupted agricultural value chains, impacting fuel costs, fertiliser imports and many others.
“This has seen food price inflation hit new highs, pushing the cost of the typical food basket to over R1 000 in August 2022.
“Thanks to the agility of our farmers and traders, proper planning and good domestic harvests for wheat, sunflower and maize, we are now seeing prices starting to fall,” she said.
Another global issue is the steady encroachment of non-tariff sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are limiting the country’s ability to export.
Didiza said she is working together with Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, in addressing this matter at a bilateral level.
Meanwhile at a multilateral level, South Africa and the European Union are in consultation on sanitary and phytosanitary measures within the framework of the World Trade Organisation.
Didiza said they are optimistic that the existing engagement platforms will yield a successful outcome.
At a domestic level, she said biosecurity remains a concern.
“The prevalence of animal disease in the country has barred commercial farmers from exporting their products to important markets.
“The department is working with industry to strengthen our biosecurity control systems, veterinary services and related support services,” the Minister said.
Didiza used the platform to condemn the killing of farmers and farm workers.
“The disruption caused by these attacks – but also by damage caused to farming operations by arson, vandalism and theft – has a far broader impact on society and on the country’s food security.”
She said government is working with the sector and farming communities as they implement the National Rural Safety Strategy to improve the safety of the farming community and to reduce stock and crop theft.
“I want to express my gratitude to industry bodies for devoting resources to support this strategy on a number of fronts, including through infrastructure upgrades and other measures,” the Minister said.
Agriculture sector applauded
Didiza applauded the agricultural and farming sector for its contribution to the country’s balance of trade, addressing the unemployment crisis and, above all, ensuring the nation’s food security.
“I also want to commend the sector for embracing the Land Donations Policy and urge you to use the policy space provided to support accelerated land reform.
“What we want to see from this congress are concrete proposals that will not only benefit agriculture, but also the broader economy and society.
“As you will be deliberating on the profitability and sustainability of agriculture in South Africa, I urge you to work towards an agricultural sector that is representative, inclusive and that supports our nation’s social and economic goals.”
The Minister further called on government, the industry, labour and civil society to continue working together to strengthen agriculture so that it lives, works, grows and benefits all.

Source: South African Government News Agency