Delivering his State Of The Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday night in Cape Town, president Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned agriculture as one of the sectors that has the potential to grow the economy, create jobs and combat hunger.
He touched on several issues within the sector, including the production of cannabis, which he said will soon be industrialised.
“We want to harness this,” said the president.
He promised to review the policy and regulatory framework for industrial hemp and cannabis to realise “the huge potential for investment and job creation”.
“While structural reforms are necessary for us to revive economic growth, they are not enough on their own. This year, we are undertaking far-reaching measures to unleash the potential of small businesses, micro businesses and informal businesses. These are the businesses that create the most jobs and provide the most opportunities for poor people to earn a living. The hemp and cannabis sector has the potential to create more than 130,000 new jobs,” said the president.
We are therefore, adds Ramaphosa, streamlining the regulatory processes so that the hemp and cannabis sector can thrive like it is in other countries such as Lesotho.
“Our people in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere are ready to farm with this age-old commodity and bring it to market in new and innovative forms.”
Ramaphosa said the agriculture sector has significant potential for job creation in crops such as citrus, table and dried grapes, subtropical fruit, avocadoes, berries and nuts.
He said Masterplans in the sugar and poultry industries are also contributing significantly to “increased investment, improved production and transformation.”
Regarding land reform, the president said that expanding access to land is vital for the efforts to reduce hunger and provide people with meaningful livelihoods.
“We are moving ahead with land reform in terms of the Constitution, and anticipate the approval of the Expropriation Bill during this year. The establishment of the Agriculture and Land Reform Development Agency will be finalised this year,” he said.
The president also recognised that the economy cannot grow without efficient ports and railways as this hampers the movement goods in and out of the country.
“Over several years, the functioning of our ports has declined relative to ports in other parts of the world and on the African continent. This constrains economic activity. “The agricultural sector, for example, relies heavily on efficient, well-run ports to export their produce to overseas markets. Fresh produce cannot wait for days and even weeks stuck in a terminal. This hurts businesses and compromises our country’s reputation as an exporter of quality fresh produce, said the President.
He said that Transnet is addressing these challenges and is currently focused on improving operational efficiencies at the ports through procuring additional equipment and implementing new systems to reduce congestion.
“Transnet will ask for proposals from private partners for the Durban and Ngqura Container Terminals within the next few months, which will enable partnerships to be in place at both terminals by October 2022. Transnet will start the process of providing third-party access to its freight rail network from April 2022 by making slots available on the container corridor between Durban and City Deep in Gauteng.”
Furthermore, the president addressed the issue of water licences which often become a stumbling block in the agriculture sector.
He said water is vital to life, to development and to economic growth.
“That is why we have prioritised institutional reforms in this area to ensure future water security, investment in water resources and maintenance of existing assets.
“We have embarked on the process of institutional reform in capacitating the Department of Water and Sanitation and reviewing water boards in as far as their mandates are concerned and ensuring that they serve municipalities in terms of the District Development Model.
“These reforms are being championed by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, who has visited every water source in the country. A comprehensive turnaround plan is being implemented to streamline the process for water use license applications. The target is to clear the backlog of applications by June 2022 and to process 80% of all applications within 90 days during the next financial year. Legislation has been prepared for the establishment of the National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency, and will be published for public comment within the next month.”
The president said that water quality monitoring system has been reinstated to improve enforcement of water standards at municipal level, and enable the Department of Water and Sanitation to intervene where water and sanitation services are failing.
Following the resolutions of the African Union Summit over the past weekend, trading can now begin under the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement
Ramaphosa said South African companies are poised to play a key role in taking up the opportunities that this presents for preferential access to other African markets.
“The Free Trade agreement is about Africa taking charge of its destiny and growing its economies faster. We will continue to pursue Africa’s health sovereignty, working with other African countries and international partners to support the strengthening of the continent’s capacity to respond to pandemics.
The president said that as government, they have given themselves 100 days to finalise a comprehensive social compact to grow our economy, create jobs and combat hunger.
“This work will build on the foundation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, which remains our common programme to rebuild the economy,” Ramaphosa.