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JOHANNESBURG - According to the 2017 transformation report of AgriSA, South Africa's largest lobby group spent R331million on transformation last year, which benefited 108307 farmers across the country.

It was tabled by AgriSA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede during their commodity and corporate conference in Pretoria yesterday.

Van der Rheede said AgriSA was now looking at spending R1billion to benefit about 330000 farmers.

AgriSA’s affiliates did most of the hard work in realising their transformation goals and developmental agenda for the 2016/17 financial year, with Cotton SA spending R19m on training and mentoring 718 farmers in Mpumalanga.

Forestry SA spent R25m on its development programme and benefited 15 farmers, one enterprise and 300 young farmers.

Grain SA spent R33m on more than 9500 farmers, Tobacco SA spent R5.6m on 70 farmers and the SA Sugar Association spent almost R125m on more than 6500 farmers.

The SA Cane Growers spent R11m on 20000 farmers, while the red meat industry’s development budget totalled R9.5m, with 200smallholder farmers and 200 farmworkers benefiting.

However, some of the challenges AgriSA encountered were a shortage of capital and exorbitant costs of irrigation systems, which constrained productivity and production.

Van der Rheede said the minimum wage requirements hindered productivity and job creation.

He also said the allocation of government grants and loans was not aligned with the timing of production cycles, and that emerging farmers and government extension officers lacked commodity specific expertise.

“Transformation is not a moral imperative, but an efficiency and national imperative,” said Van der Rheede.

Speaking at the AgriSA event, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga said agriculture and agro-processing needed to be sustainable to ensure economic growth for his metro and the people of South Africa.

The agriculture sector played a pivotal role as it helped the economy clamber out of a technical recession last year.