Agri SA Congress: Farmer’s lunch box

“It has managed to cement a seat in the body politics of organised business and government. As a black commercial farmer, they have managed to represent our concerns very well,” said a member from North West.

The annual AgriSA Congress wrapped up on Friday, with Dan Kriek re-elected as its president.

Theme focus of this year was “promoting development, profitability and stability of commercial agriculture in SA”. In his opening speech, Dan Kriek sounded a call for farmers to transform and aid the government in its programme.

Since Omri Van Zyl took over as Agri SA Chief Executive Officer, the body has swum skillfully through the discourse of transformation and land reform.

“It has managed to cement a seat in the body politics of organised business and government. As a black commercial farmer, they have managed to represent our concerns very well,” said a member from North West.

AgriSA has managed to avoid controversy at every instance, especially on contentious issues such as land reform and farm murders.  

When AfriForum blew hot air on the number of farm murders in the country, AgriSA worked behind the scenes and brought on board the South African Police Service (SAPS). The result produced a Rural Safety Strategy which according to Tommie Esterhuyse of Rural Safety will see “implementation of the strategy by all station commanders is necessary.”

In 2016, the Department of Water and Sanitation was on the brink to recommend a policy for farmers using irrigated water to be heavily fined. Agri SA managed to persuade DWS to lessen its hard approach towards agriculture on water usage.

It was not surprising at all to hear Minister Lindiwe Sisulu heap praises on AgriSA.

“As government, we do acknowledge the importance of the agricultural sector in our economy and the role Agri SA is playing in ensuring that matters of food security and challenges attached to them are brought to the fore at a regular basis,” she said.

Water rights issues remained a challenge for farmers. Some of the farmers were still waiting for water permits from the department. Sisulu promised to relook into this issue with earnest scrutiny and revert back to Agri SA.

In her keynote address Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza even seemed impressed with AgriSA’s complexion since she vacated the portfolio in 2004.

Her two female predecessors Xingwana and Joemat-Petterson never enjoyed good relations with Agri SA. Didiza’s address had none of the hard-core stance on transformation but a rather a message of opportunities.

“Our focus is the development of the agricultural master plan with a focus on investment, building new industries like medicinal products to give contribution to the economy. The African Free Trade Agreement (AfTA) digitisation and the ‘green gold’ (cannabis) are some of the opportunities we must explore,” she said.

It still remains to be seen whether the master plan will enjoy Agri SA’s handwriting and signature. The body has become an official de facto government think tank on all areas of agriculture. Van Zyl has managed to build a mean machine which covers policy aspects of the economy, agronomy, trade law, water, safety, rural development and now adding technology to its machinery to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Meanwhile, other farmer organisations such as AFASA, NAFU and NERPO have built none of such capacities nor cared to invest in policy and research. In the next Agri SA Congress, expect a policy perspective on 4th Industrial Revolution in Agriculture that government will support indulgingly.   

The Agri SA Board for 2019/20 is:

Dan Kriek – President
Pierre Vercueil – Deputy president
Phenias Gumede – Deputy president
Cornie Swart – General Affairs Chamber representative
Doug Stern – General Affairs Chamber representative
Francois Wilken – General Affairs Chamber representative
Jaco Minnaar – Commodity Chamber representative
Niël Joubert – Commodity Chamber representative
SK Makinana – Commodity Chamber representative
Gerhard Diedericks – Corporate Chamber Representative
Rossouw Cillié – Corporate Chamber representative
Nic Bronkhorst – Corporate Chamber Representative
Dr Charlotte Nkuna – Independent Director
Dr Kathy Hurley – Independent Director

Agri SA Congress: Farmer’s lunch box
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