Shoulders to the wheel

Only we can prevent save agriculture from being the black sheep of the economy


It was recently reported in the media that SA can expect a bumper maize harvest. No doubt domestic consumers as well hunger-ridden citizens in neighbouring countries will benefit from this windfall. Whether the lower maize price is good news for commercial farmers, however, is a topic for serious contemplation. Many of those farmers have just emerged from a devastating drought; the financial consequences are still hanging over their heads like the proverbial Sword of Damocles: financial ruin and bankruptcy have not disappeared. The current maize price is well below the average input cost.

In the meantime the land question remains a hot topic, not to mention the proposed National Minimum Wage which should come into effect by May 2018. Whilst indications are that agriculture might be exempt by paying only 90% of the proposed minimum wage for the first year, the real bite will probably be felt a year later when the full Minimum Wage plus the annual increase is to be paid by 1 May 2019.

The anticipated pressure on the land issue, the debt caused by the drought, and the cost of and accessibility to potable water for irrigation purposes and rising input costs in general, are all cause for concern within the ranks of commercial farmers.

In the meantime crime in rural areas is rampant. Not only are farm dwellers subjected to the most horrific treatment at the hands of violent criminals, but theft of property, especially livestock, is at levels never experienced before in our country. To add insult to injury, farmers are increasingly becoming the victims of service delivery protests in outlying areas. The recent uninhibited expression of dissatisfaction with a local authority in Lichtenburg and Coligny has set the scene for similar actions in Biesiesvlei and other rural centres. Crops raised under difficult and challenging natural pressures are stolen under circumstances where effective policing cannot be relied upon. The burning of farm houses, the destruction of crops and the blocking of roads have become the norm in several areas.

To top it all, racial tensions and biased treatment of law abiding and tax-paying citizens have become the flavour of our times.

With the exception of declared wars, South Africa has probably not seen the same levels of widespread violence and criminality in its history.

It is within this environment and the current state of affairs that farmers are continuing to answer to their calling: they are indeed feeding the population, including those who detest them to such an extent that violent crime (including deliberate torture and dehumanisation) knows no boundaries; and to top it all they are being labelled as land thieves and brutal employers. They are despised by the very people who enjoy the literal fruits of their labour.

Not only are they feeding the population, they are keeping rural economies alive, earning valuable foreign exchange and contributing to the national economy.

What a dilemma! Under such circumstances and challenges, South Africa has been able to produce commercial farmers second to none. They have survived wars, depressions, droughts and criminal onslaughts second to none. This should reflect something of their moral fibre which should make it possible to regard their dedication and determination with special interest and appreciation. It might seem as though a growing portion of society lives under the impression that their daily bread is the product of the local supermarket.

The real and perceived distance between primary producer and consumer seems to be ever increasing.

Current reality indicates that the same applies to government and it's many institutions.

Are farmers, their families and the employees really the out-of-sight Black Sheep most politicians, officials and consumers regard them to be?

The question which law-abiding citizens should ask themselves is what should be done about the status quo? Of course we can carry on voting like we have been doing, but that is unfortunately no guarantee that meaningful change would be forthcoming. As a matter of fact, our national set of values is under threat. Unfortunately information currently available indicates that the rot has settled in at the highest level of government. Should sound principles not become the norm in both politics and business, as well as our interaction with each other, the decadence will only gather more momentum, thus creating a nightmarish pitfall which will truly be too ghastly to contemplate.

The current policy environment will not foster a growing and thriving economy. Such an economic and business environment is to be regarded as a primary requisite for the creation of opportunities for all to benefit from. While disciplined socialistic practices can aid the aged, the frail and the physically impaired, sound economic practice is the tried and trusted method to create equal opportunities for those who are either good entrepreneurs or those willing to earn a proper income.

Unfortunately, up till now, society has had very few options other than bearing the brunt of failure at monumental cost (not to mention the gigantic losses due to mismanagement and corruption) to the ever-declining tax base. Can we really afford to blindly carry on in the current economic cul-de-sac? When last did we see evidence of cost-effective and meaningful projects benefitting society? TAU SA has adopted the stance that we need to change that which needs to be changed, thus creating a future which promises growth, viability and a truly better future for those who are willing and able to commit themselves.

The various areas of economic activity should therefore start by providing input which will contribute to the de facto creation of a positive policy environment and, with the financial capacity which exists, open new avenues by practical evidence of better business practices, thus creating positive pressure. If the total agricultural value chain could cooperate by working together and thus create a policy which is rooted in private ownership and free market principles which could promote and build trust, it will at least be a starting point. Let us all therefore accept joint responsibility for our future and speak up and start building a workable policy environment which will produce only one outcome: growth. With that we can address the unacceptably high levels of unemployment and the poverty that goes with that.

In this regard, TAU SA recently hosted an conference to which all the different role-players in the agricultural sector were invited. The organizations which were represented indicated their interest to collectively seek and identify opportunities which will serve the wellbeing of society at large, but in particular the interests of the agricultural sector. We are all positive that we should do something by ourselves. Our challenge now is to inform and convince enough role players so that we can muster critical mass to influence the policy environment in such a manner to replace the present uncertainty with investor confidence and internal stability and sustainability so that agriculture will be regarded as a strategic asset of national prominence.

The political will to redirect South Africa to a positive future unfortunately doesn’t exist. As long as the focus is on saving the ANC and not on the wellbeing of the population and what could be done to create a better sustainable life in reality for them all, the responsible citizens in society do have an almost impossible task to redirect the country to develop to its achievable optimum performance.

The question which every citizen in South Africa should ask themselves is whether they are content with going downhill as a result of government policy. If not what is to be done about it? It will be our own choice if we stay the Black Sheep!

Not on your life!

Bennie Van Zyl, General Manager, TAU SA

comments powered by Disqus


This edition

Issue 46


Harvest_SA The latest Harvest SA edition is available now. #digital #agriculutre 13 days - reply - retweet - favorite

Harvest_SA proudly presents its new Cape Office and Warehouse!. This new facility unlocks a growth opportunity for… 4 months - reply - retweet - favorite

Harvest_SA and the #AfricanAgriCouncil (AAC) invite you to attend the two day Agri-Food Tech & Innovation Summit (A… 5 months - reply - retweet - favorite