Role players team up for true agricultural masterplan

No one can at this point afford to just watch and do nothing about the challenges in South Africa.

For this reason, various agricultural organisations, farmers’ unions, and industry organisations are joining forces to come up with a true agricultural masterplan. Extensive dissatisfaction with the state, Agbiz and Agri SA’s agricultural masterplan among farmers forced organisations including Saai, TLU SA, NEASA and the LWO together with local, district, provincial agricultural unions, and industry organisations to properly analyse the objections against it and formulate alternatives proposals in this regard.

Both Saai and TLU SA have already started at Nampo in the week after the signing of the plan to get farmers’ input for an improved master plan.

A programme will be launched today (Friday 1 July) to compile the improved masterplan that will be based on economic principles that in any case have the last say to measure success and all stakeholders are invited to participate.

A public awareness campaign has also been launched to encourage participation. Inputs will be processed and integrated at Saai, TLU SA, NEASA and the LWO and a draft plan will then be sent to participants for completion. The final product will be submitted to the state and signatories of the current master plan to determine where they differ with the more inclusive version.

The main objections to the current masterplan for agriculture are:

  • The plan is not inclusive, and apart from the individual signatories, there were no opportunities to provide input. The signatories like to boast of the scientific underpinnings of the process of formulating the masterplan, but there is no data on how the team compilers were identified, how it was concluded that only unions and no employers’ organisations may be involved, or how key terms such as transformation should not be defined.
  • The whole of the masterplan is subordinated to the transformation agenda, as if agriculture is just about transformation. No definition is given to transformation, in fact, when TLU SA (which was initially involved in the team of drafters) insisted that the state of Eskom, SAA, Denel, SABC, Transnet and state hospitals reflects transformation, TLU SA’s written inputs were ignored for a year despite repeated inquiries and repeated promises for handling and the document continued to be signed off. TLU SA was only pushed aside in the end and Saai, like other role players, was never invited to be part of the process.
  • Farmers feel that profitability, sustainability, and efficiency of agriculture are more important than transformation and believe that their subordination to transformation is precisely the cause of the collapse of state-owned enterprises, public health and so many municipalities.
  • It is an agricultural plan without farmers. The importance of emerging and aspiring farmers and of agribusinesses is a central theme in the state / Agbiz / Agri SA masterplan, but it is written as if the average commercial family farm does not exist. If the agricultural masterplan is not a farmer-centred plan, it is doomed to failure.

 

A masterplan for agriculture must remain relevant for longer than the rule of a political party, and not be formulated to support only a party-political agenda. Therefore, the improved plan will also provide an opportunity for other political parties that want to give input. Agricultural economists, scientists and individual farmers are invited to make contributions and will have the opportunity to comment on a draft masterplan.

There are also commendable elements in the current masterplan, such as the six pillars that have been identified, namely:

  • To clear up policy uncertainty and thus contribute to a more investment-friendly environment.
  • To invest in infrastructure such as roads, ports, electricity, and railways that are critically important for agriculture and to maintain them.
  • To make comprehensive agricultural technical assistance, development financing, research, and development available to farmers.
  • To increase food security, production, jobs, dignity, and inclusivity.
  • To facilitate market expansion, market access and more trading opportunities.
  • To promote local production, import substitution and the expansion of processed agricultural products.

 

However, making it all dependent and subordinate on transformation abandons the goal, betrays the farmers, and leaves the plan useless.

It is extremely naive to leave state functions that are increasingly collapsing in the hands of the state without any indication of how the cause of the non-functioning will be neutralised. Transformation as a collective concept that summarises the outcome of government policy as it is currently applied is not in the interest of any grouping in the country. Unemployment rises annually with the accompanying poverty and every individual’s future is put under negative pressure.

The non-negotiable thing is that profitability, sustainability, and efficiency are at the heart of an Agricultural Masterplan and cannot be subordinate to transformation. For that, expertise and ability above race or party-political commitment, and market forces above ideological aspirations must form the cornerstone of implementation plans.

There may be no discriminatory disqualification based on language, race, gender or political sentiment in participation or contribution. Every participant and implementer in the plan to hedge food security must both be given the opportunity and accept the responsibility to meet the challenges of being a farmer.