Government to transform agricultural sector

11492558446_487df3f26b_zGovernment is looking into transforming the agricultural sector so that it allows the entry of black people to participate meaningfully in the economy and the food production value chain.

The agriculture sector has been identified as a key platform for both transformation and growth and job creation which could create one million jobs by 2030.

“Let me emphasise that that such transformation does not mean destroying what we have and what works. It also does not mean that we want to destroy commercial agriculture. We fully support all our farmers, black and white, established and emerging,” said President Jabob Zuma on Monday.

He was speaking at a gala dinner hosted by the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) in Boksburg on the East Rand. To advance this goal in agriculture, President Zuma said government will continue to provide support to smallholder farmers. “We declare 2017 the year of the commercialisation of the black smallholder farmers. Indeed government has committed itself to support the commercialisation programme for 450 black smallholder farmers per year,” said President Zuma. Government is also finalising the AgriBEE Enforcement Regulations to enforce Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment through the government levers such as licenses, permits, concessions, authorisations, grants and incentives.

The AgriBEE Sector Code provides guidelines for transformation in the agriculture sector and some of the significant aspects in the Amended AgriBEE Sector Code is the inclusion of farm workers under ownership scorecard. Government also recently 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. Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with the Forest Sector Charter Council, is working on the development of a Funding Scheme for Black Foresters.

Other existing government programmers include the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, Ilima/Letsema, LandCare, and MAFISA, the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa which all seek to address the financial services needs of the smallholder farmers and agri-businesses.

In addition to these, government has also introduced innovative programmes such as the Agricultural Parks or Agriparks in all 53 District Municipalities which provide much needed markets for emerging farmers.

President Zuma said with all these initiatives in place, they are also aware of the need to invest in recruiting, training and supporting agricultural extension officers, who should be knowledgeable and able to assist farmers.

However, for these interventions in agriculture to succeed, the President said all sectors must work together.

“It is for this reason that we developed the Operation Phakisa in Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform programme in agriculture, which we launched in February this year in Tshwane. It brings together government, business, labour, academia and the agricultural sector to find solutions and boost the agriculture sector.”

President Zuma went on to assure the association that government is committed to rooting out the scourge of corruption to restore investor confidence.

“We remain fully committed to clean governance. Funds that are allocated for public services must be used for public services and nothing else. There must be no deviation in this regard.

“I therefore wish to assure you all that law enforcement agencies have been authorised to deal decisively with corruption and crime in both the private and public sectors,” added President Zuma.

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