South African farming: new policy offers promise, but there’s fixing to be done too

South African farming: new policy offers promise, but there’s fixing to be done too

Trucks lining outside a container yard in Cape Town, South Africa. Infrastructure backlogs are a threat to food exports. For most agricultural subsectors, South Africa is emerging from one of the best years . The 2020/21 season saw bumper harvests for grains, oilseeds and some fruits. These boosted export earnings and improved farm incomes, especially for grains where the large harvest coincided with higher crop prices.

When it started the current season, 2021/22, promised to be exceptional . But the continuation of the heavy rains has proved to be a challenge for various regions , causing crop damage and delaying planting. The heavy rains of the new year are La Niña induced and follow another year of higher-than-average moisture. Various crop surveys have indicated a potential decline in harvests in 2021/22 as a result.

The year ahead could therefore be financially costly for the farming community if crop damage proves to be extensive. The devastation being caused is another reminder that climate change is driving unpredictable weather patterns.

Beyond the vagaries of the weather and the impact on crops, the year ahead offers a range of promising developments, as well as escalating difficulties if problems aren’t addressed.

On the upside is the imminent launch of an Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan , along with a possible launch of the Land Reform Agency .

Both initiatives will require private sector participation to succeed. So far, the drafting process of the master plan has been done collaboratively with all social partners (business, labour, community and government). This cooperation will need to extend into practical implementation. The Land Reform Agency will also require private sector support, especially when it has been established and starts operating.

On the down side, the first dark cloud on the horizon for the sector is the poor state of local municipalities. Continued deterioration will have devastating knock-on effects.

It could stymie the master plan rollout efforts, and presents a risk to the agribusinesses, broader agriculture and other sectors of the economy. The same is true for the logistics infrastructure, particularly rail, which is under attack , putting at risk export oriented sectors such as agriculture. Policy priorities

The primary focus for the sector in 2021 was the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan . This is social compact programme whch aims to expand agricultural production, broaden the inclusion of black farmers and boost the sector’s competitiveness. This is likely to be launched in the first […]

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