Transformation in the spotlight at AFASA conference

The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) Agribusiness Transformation is currently underway in Bloemfontein, Free State.

Under the theme ‘farmers growing SA’, the conference introspected on possible ways to create jobs and trade opportunities. Mining magnate Dr Patrice Motsepe was the first to set the tone when he announced a multi-billion fund to assist black farmers.

“Agricultural problems of 2019 are still the same when I was a young boy in the 70s. Access to finance was a real challenge for our farmers,’’ he said.

In May 2019, Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital (ARC) officially announced its entry into the insurance market with SANLAM. The latter provides crop insurance to farmers and as it stands, it is still unclear whether part of the multi-billion fund will cover insurance for struggling emerging farmers.

President of AFASA Dr Vuyo Mahlati welcomed the commitment and urged the government to appoint the right people in places to support the farmers adequately. “This is why perception is always created that black people cannot farm,” she said.

A central figure of discussion among delegates was around land reform and transformation. The merged department of agriculture, land reform and rural development was a sticking topic.

The Ministry has so far remained diplomatic on matters relating to transformation and land reform. In what was viewed as a first signal of fixing the departments direction, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza hit the right chords.

“Our administrative capacity as a state is a bedrock of a successful and sustainable agricultural sector that can contribute to the economy. Our research capability and economic intelligence must assist in identifying markets for exports. A dynamic financial service including insurance products remains a critical element is we are to grow.”

On transformation alone, Minister Didiza’s historical context argument was welcomed. Interventions to accelerate the participation of farmers to the agricultural chain were established such as Argive Fund. However, these schemes proved to yield little return on investment.

 “Argive Fund for example, in the years it has been in operation, has it assisted in the transformation of the agri-business, such that we can see new participants as partners in the existing enterprises of the agricultural value chain?” she said.

Also, she noted that not enough discourse on industry trusts as a catalyst to unlock transformation was analysed. The deregulation of marketing boards had a negative impact to developing farmers and new entrants.

“The question to AFASA and all delegates is whether or not the industry trusts that have been put into place have enabled the transformation agenda within the industry” she added. Farmers and associations were seemingly missing the aim of transformation if the emphasis was not placed on industry trusts.

On land reform, Minister Didiza welcomed the Advisory Panel recommendations. Her departments were in land administration and the development of tenure legislation.

Transformation in the spotlight at AFASA conference
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