Frustrated farmers feel the crunch

2014-09-09 00:00

MANY farmers are having to focus on economic survival due to rising input costs and are finding it difficult to deal with matters such as transformation and skills transfer, said KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanulu) president Michael Black.

A combination of economic difficulties and political uncertainty had led to decreased confidence and increased pessimism among commercial farmers in the province, he said in his written speech for Kwanulu’s annual congress held last week at Pietermaritzburg’s Royal Showgrounds, in which about 100 farmers took part.

He said while the government had “grand strategies and visions” about the potential of agriculture to create jobs and contribute to the economy, these were unfortunately negated by statements and proposed legislation that would have the opposite effect. “Whether this is intentional or merely misguided is uncertain, but the end result is declining confidence among those involved in agriculture, something we can ill afford,” said Black.

Black said it had become a source of frustration that while most commercial farmers supported land reform, and many were enthusiastic about transformation projects, there was little support from government officials when projects were conceptualised and required financing. While officials do often appear to support the projects, they also appear to have little authority to sign off on the projects. “As a result, commercial farmers who could have been involved simply shrug their shoulders and walk away.”

Black said that with R70 billion already spent on land reform in the country, that had produced little in terms of economic benefit, the time had come for a different approach to land reform.

Land reform was an issue that would not go away in the foreseeable future and something that needed to be dealt with by the industry, he said, adding a commodity forum was being established, and it was not inconceivable that this body could evolve into some kind of special purpose vehicle that could drive land reform in that sector.

He appealed for young farm sector leaders, particularly among the district farming associations, aged between 25 and 50 to become more proactive. “Leadership is one factor in which you have complete control, yet we often seem to give it the least attention,” he said.

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