President Jacob Zuma says determination, unity and the willingness of all sectors to pull together is required to turn around the low economic growth situation in South Africa.
Addressing the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA) Agribusiness Transformation Conference on Monday in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, President Zuma said the agriculture sector has an important role to play, along with other sectors, in ensuring future economic growth.
We value our agricultural sector immensely because it contributes to economic development as well as food security and job creation for our people.
He said the agriculture sector has been identified as a key platform for both transformation and growth and job creation.
In South Africa's socio-economic development blueprint, the National Development Plan, it is estimated that agriculture has the potential to create one million jobs by the year 2030.
A productive agriculture sector also has the potential to transform rural areas into sustainable economic centres.
President Zuma said the country's vision for rural development will only be fully realised when the sector is successfully expanded and developed.
The country faces challenges of sustained low growth and investment, rising unemployment and the deteriorating position of public finances.
In the last budget, growth was expected to be 1.3%. It is now expected that it will be below 0.5%, President Zuma said.
The weak consumer demand and stagnant business investment in the economy continue to be a challenge. This is exacerbated by the consistent slow growth of the global economy.
If we implement interventions successfully, which are linked to our Nine-Point Plan, we can breathe some life into the economy.
The President said the Nine-Point Plan includes focus areas such as energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture and industrialisation.
Empowering smallholder farmers
Government has committed to continue providing support to smallholder farmers, especially the commercialisation programme for 450 black smallholder farmers per year.
Government is finalising the AgriBEE Enforcement Regulations to enforce Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. The AgriBEE Sector Code provides guidelines for transformation in the agriculture sector. Some of the significant aspects in the Amended AgriBEE Sector Code is the inclusion of Farm Workers under Ownership Scorecard.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has also established the AgriBEE Fund, which is geared towards increasing black entrepreneurs in the sector.
The fund covers the funding of qualifying enterprise development initiatives, which are targeted at creating economic access and participation for black people in the agricultural sector.
President Zuma said the national and provincial agriculture departments will provide status reports on their implementation of BEE elements such as Employment Equity, Management Control, Skills Development, Preferential Procurement, Enterprise Development and the Socio-Economic Development.
He urged farmers to use the existing programmes such as the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, Ilima/Letsema, LandCare, and MAFISA [Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa], which seeks to address the financial services needs of the smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.
We have also introduced innovative programmes such as Agricultural Parks or Agriparks in all 53 district municipalities. The parks will provide much needed markets for emerging farmers.
We are also looking at the establishment of more marketing outlets for emerging farmers and the establishment of local municipal markets.
Youth in agriculture, forestry and fisheries
President Zuma said government is pleased with youth involvement in agriculture to ensure the sustainability of the sector.
We should ensure that this interest goes beyond land ownership to the willingness to productively utilise the land. We would be happy to see more learners taking up agriculture as a subject and more of them going to agricultural colleges.
DAFF has developed the Young Producers and Entrepreneurs Strategy to support the establishment of youth owned enterprises. Recently, the department introduced the Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (#YAFF). This youth initiative intends to increase the participation of young producers or entrepreneurs in the mainstream of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. It also encourages South African youth to aspire for excellence in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
President Zuma said transformation must also include women in agriculture.
Government, through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, recognises Women in Agriculture through its flagship programme known as the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
The President is confident that all interventions in agriculture will succeed if all sectors work together.
Source: South African Government News Agency