Go back to the old ways - Agri DG
Pieter du Toit, Beeld
Cape Town – Langa Zita, the new director general of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, says the agricultural practices that were successful before 1994 should be reconsidered and brought back.
Zita said that 16 years after the birth of democracy, it is now time to look at what served the agricultural sector in the past.
Zita was speaking during a parliamentary information session with Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, on Monday.
“Commercial agriculture in this country has a particular history and background that we can’t ignore. For instance, farmers were supported by government subsidies in the past… it is now the time to consider what worked (before 1994) and make sure this is brought back.
“It’s not an ideological issue, rather historical facts.”
Joemat-Pettersson said before 1994 farmers benefited from cheap long-term loans and that ways should be found to once again make this available to farmers.
Zita was recently appointed director general. He is a former ANC MP, chief organiser for the SACP and chair of the governing party’s economic transformation committee. Until recently he worked as the minister’s special policy advisor.
Zita said commercial agriculture should be empowered.
“My main goal in this position is to make sure that whatever works in agriculture should be supported. Commercial agriculture, bearing in mind all its challenges, does work; it provides food security.”
According to him, rising input costs are a source of concern for farmers, and he would like to have discussions on the matter with all role players. He agrees with critics that say there is not enough support for small farmers and that they should receive more help.
Joemat-Pettersson added that she is currently reviewing the department’s research capacity.
“I’m very worried about that. We are re-opening our agricultural colleges and we made an arrangement with the Department of Public Works for premises for our research unit. The department’s ability to conduct reliable research has been compromised.”
Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, said Joemat-Pettersson has informed him that Zita’s instructions are to build a solid relationship with commercial agriculture.
Although he welcomed Zita’s appointment and statements, he has heard such talk before.
“We will give him all the support we can and hope it will be different this time.”