13 May 2020
It seems as if the department of agriculture and land reform and the department of rural development have now finally merged. The new structure was presented to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on 5 May 2020. The department also shared its strategic plan for the next 5 years with the portfolio committee.
Willem de ChavonnesVrugt, chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Land, warned that 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.
Agri SA’s members play a critical role in this regard. There is a risk that the land debate could overshadow agricultural issues. Although Agri SA fully acknowledges the importance of land reform, the focus should now be on agriculture.
Agri SA has learned with concern that the department intends to revisit the Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill. The controversial bill makes provision for land ceilings and the regulation of foreign ownership of land. It also seems that plans to amend section 25 of the Constitution, as well as the Expropriation Bill, are going full steam ahead.
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 security 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.
Covid-19 will change the world in many respects, says De ChavonnesVrugt. “We now need visionary leadership to position our country for the changing world following the pandemic. Agriculture will play an even bigger role in future; therefore, we need to cherish and protect our farming sector.”