Cape Town – Agri SA says food production and hunger relief should be prioritised now that the merger of the Department of Agriculture and Land Reform and Department of Rural Development has been completed.
Willem de Chavonnes Vrugt, Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence chairperson for land matters, said: “The new department’s mandate is extensive and that it should guard against neglecting agriculture-related aspects. A priority for the foreseeable future must be to ensure sustainable food production and combat hunger.”
Last week, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development, and select committee on land reform, environment, minerals and energy on the department’s new reconfigured structure, which was finalised by the Department of Public Service and Administration.
De Chavonnes Vrugt said: “It seems plans to amend section 25 of the Constitution, as well as the Expropriation Bill, are going full-steam ahead. Agri SA is concerned that the land debate could overshadow agricultural issues.
“Although we fully acknowledge the importance of land reform, the focus should now be on agriculture,” he added. Agri SA and its members have already played a major role in hunger relief by delivering food to various communities. For farmers to continue producing, they require policy certainty and secu rity of property rights. It is also important that farmers who farm on state land have security of tenure and access to affordable financing to optimise production on such land.”
Agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo added: “As many parts of the economy remain closed due to lockdown restrictions, we are seeing some evidence that South Africa’s agriculture and allied industries have thus far not been as hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as other sectors of the economy. A case in point is the agricultural machinery sales monthly data, which show South Africa’s tractor and combine harvester sales were down by just 4% year-on-year (y/y) and 13% y/y in April 2020, with 416 units and 20 units sold, respectively.”
Source: Cape Argus