The politics & economics of agriculture should be every farmer’s daily bread

The days of farming without equipping oneself with knowledge around the policies and politics of the industry are over.

How many farmers have a clear understanding of the implications the poultry, sugar and agriculture master plans have on their operations?

Do majority of farmers have time to look into the Agricultural Land Allocation Plan and how it affects them in the short and long term?

Recently, we have seen with shock how the prices of tomatoes ballooned. This left even some smallholder tomato farmers confused as to what exactly contributed to this. A simple explanation would be that the prices have skyrocketed due to shortage of tomatoes. However, in all honesty, the price rises follow months of heavy rains across South Africa. Could climate change then be contributing to the problem? This is the question farmers should be asking themselves and also checking with government and industry stakeholders on plans to mitigate or avert the effects of climate change in future.

Agricultural policies normally elevate decision making processes impacting the work of the various agricultural industries. Ever considered why commercial farmers and organised agriculture are efficient and able to respond to economic conditions? It has to do with farmers having a clear understanding of agricultural policies and procedures.

The more farmers are able to plan ahead, they are more secured in stability and are able to force transparency and accountability within relevant bodies.

As much as farmers spent most of their time working in the field, it is equally important that one spends as much familiarising themselves with the politics, economics and policies of agriculture.

Anyone who invests his money in a certain industry is often advised to do some research regarding that particular industry. Well, farming, as a sector within agriculture, is also a subject of policies and politics of agriculture.

Primary and secondary farming is capital intensive, so for any emerging farmer to throw their money in the sector, it is of utmost important that they familiarise themselves and where possible get involved with the policies and politics to ensure return on their investment.

Whatever policy is decided at the top level, will have a direct or indirect binding on an ordinary farmer, even those situated in the rural areas of South Africa.

When investors take a decision to invest in any country, they first look at the type of political and economic policies in place in that particular country, before committing their hard-earned cash. Although they might not agree with the policies completely, the knowledge obtained from the study will guide them on how to balance the difference.

Most emerging farmers in South Africa pay little or no attention to the policy within the agricultural industry and that leads to the downfall of many because it clearly means that you are operating in an industry that you do not fully understand.

Yes, one might be the expert in their chosen field of farming but you will still be governed by policies and politics regardless.

For example, most emerging farmers always complain about access to land, markets and funding…but a few ever take time to find out if the policy and/or politics of the industry might have anything to contribute to their lack of access.

Knowledge of industry policies and politics enable farmers to identify risks and opportunities that exists or are developing in their industry, thereby helping them to plan prudently when changes may be in order. Almost as important as understanding the risks associated with the agriculture industry is understanding the dynamics and critical forces in your industry at policy level.

In most cases industry factors such as policy, politics and economics can have as much impact on your farm’s fate, no matter how small the detail.

For example, a cattle, sheep, goat, pig or poultry farmer should concern themselves with politics of farming maize as much as the maize farmer. This because the price of maize directly impacts on the price of animal feed, which can sometimes push a farmer out of the business.

So, if there’s a policy conference for maize farmers, animal farmers have every right to make their submissions and to make it their business to fully understand the outcomes thereafter.

But a farmer who does not concern themselves with the dynamics of the industry they operate in, will just be helpless until they bow out. They start taking a route of blaming government and complaining off transformation in the sector.

For example, anyone thinking of staring poultry farming today, should concern themselves more with the dynamics around the Poultry Master Plan than where to buy day old broiler chicks. Why? That document called the Poultry Master Plan has a direct bearing on the industry market forces.

But do most emerging poultry farmers know the rhymes and rigours of the Poultry Master Plan. I doubt most do, the jury is still out.

Furthermore, as a farmer or anyone with interest in farming you should embrace every opportunity to submit a comment in the amendment of section 25 of the constitution of South Africa debate as the outcomes of that process may have a negative or positive impact in your farming operation.

Worse, you might even wake up with no place to farm on because you never bothered to influence policy.

The value to your farming operation is significantly increased by an understanding of and ability to respond to industry forces and trends. So, reading up on new industry developments can effectively help a farmer when changes are in order.

In an industry that requires a lifetime commitment such as primary and secondary farming, Industry insight and experience becomes more important as you grow.

The main purpose of industry knowledge is to help farmers identify risks and opportunities that exist or are developing in their industry. Thus, you can prepare for changes and take advantage of opportunities.

You either choose to pray for the rain and wait for it to fall whenever it falls or you come up with ways to water your farm in the absence of rain. The choice is yours.

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