News / South Africa

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
6 Jun 2019
4:43 pm

Supporting KZN’s agricultural sector is key to turning the provincial economy around – DA

Makhosandile Zulu

The provincial department of agriculture says it is focusing on supporting subsistence farmers who want to become commercial farmers.

Image: iStock

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal said supporting the agricultural sector in the region is key to turning the provincial economy around.

This after Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced this week that the country’s economy declined by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, with production in the agricultural sector slumping by 13.2%.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, agriculture production registered a 7.9% rise in activity, according to Stats SA.

“A slowdown in the production of field crops – wheat, sunflower seeds, and tobacco – and horticultural products – vegetables, citrus and deciduous fruits – weakened performance in the first quarter,” Stats SA said.

The DA’s KZN MPL Chris Pappas said in a statement on Thursday that the 13.2% slump in agriculture production was the highest of any sector, which points to a crisis and a lack of political and policy leadership in a key industry of the economy.

Pappas said agriculture had contributed 5.1% towards employment in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017 while it contributed 4% towards the province’s GDP during 2018 – “a figure which it is expected to maintain this year”.

“It is the up-stream and down-stream opportunities, created by this sector and which underpin KZN’s economy that have huge potential to curb unemployment and inequality in the province, particularly in rural areas. However, this can only occur if the agricultural sector is properly supported and developed.”

The DA believes that in order to begin to see substantial and sustainable gains within the agricultural and agri-processing sector the following issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency:

  • Policy certainty – a clear way forward is needed in terms of land expropriation without compensation;
  • Ever-increasing input costs – government must intervene, particularly when it comes to costs related to labour, fuel, electricity, water and the recently instituted sugar and carbon taxes;
  • Dumping of agricultural goods – government must curb this phenomenon which directly impacts on the competitiveness and profitability of agriculture in KZN;
  • Small-scale farmers – those on land under tribal authority must be given security of tenure and proper support structures must be set up to train, mentor and provide resources for emerging farmers to enable them to participate in the economy;
  • Access to financing must also be made more easily and readily accessible to commercial and small-scale farmers;
  • Emerging businesses and farmers must be given better support in accessing the agricultural value chain; and
  • The safety of people living in rural areas must be prioritised.

The spokesperson of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mac Makhathini, said the combination of developing the sector and rural communities “is a necessary intervention” to addressing “the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality”.

Makhathini said the department’s priorities include food security and “farmer support and development”.

“In this regard, our focus is helping those subsistence farmers who are producing for their own consumption and feeding their families but want to become commercial farmers to have the appropriate suites of support, which ranges from extension and advisory services, infrastructure development, production inputs support [such as] fertilisers and seeds and economic and market information. Thereafter we can start talking about creating employment in the sector and increasing agricultural contribution to the GDP.”

The statistics agency revealed this in its results of the General Household Survey (GHS) 2018 that more than three-quarters (78,5%) of households that were involved in agriculture were involved in an attempt to secure an additional source of food.

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