Funding for emerging farmers key
Agricultural role players have identified bio security, research and development and funding for emerging farmers as key areas requiring attention by the state.
Frans Weilbach, the agribusiness industry leader at Price Waterhouse Coopers, said farmers and other components of the sector still received little support from government in tough economic conditions.
He expected more pressure to be placed on the wine industry in the Western Cape due to excise duties imposed on alcoholic beverages.
Last year, Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Finance, allocated R2.8 billion for rural development and emerging farmer support.
A further R2.2 billion was allocated to agriculture in general and R250 million appropriated for the Industrial Development Corporation’s agro-processing fund.
Weilbach said more should be spent on development and called for the easing of regulatory burdens.
There was lots of uncertainty as a result of land reform and this resulted in in farmers looking north for opportunities, he added.
More funding should be made available to support new farmers and provide management support and training, he said.
Lourie Bosman, a former Democratic Alliance shadow minister of agriculture forestry and fisheries, said a key area that needed to be prioritised by the government was research.
He said the Agricultural Research Council was never financed properly.
Also, the council had made a presentation to the department last year where it revealed that it needed R120 million to upgrade equipment, building and other projects.
The previous year saw exorbitant amounts of money being misspent and cases where funders did not go back to make sure that the projects were working properly.
There was a lack of support and control which resulted in poor results from previous budget allocations, he said.
“There was no extension support or real expertise on the ground,” he added.
Another example of misspending was the state of the fisheries industry where the department had failed to curb the poaching of abalone.
“If they want to improve the sector they will need more money. But it must be spent wisely,” he said.
John Purchase, the chief executive of the Agricultural Business Chamber, expressed concern at the lack of investment bio-security veterinary services.
Last year, there were cases of rift valley fever, which were detrimental to wool exports to China.
There were also cases of avian flu and foot and mouth disease that cost the agricultural sector billions of rands in lost revenues.
Purchase believed that these issues needed government support, as well as assistance in accessing new markets for domestic agricultural products.
Purchase said the chamber has been happy with previous budgeting processes.
“We realise that the global economy is in a critical situation. We look forward to the budget process but it has to be supportive of business confidence,” he said. - Ayanda Mdluli