I thought in my second series of the blog that I will be writing every month, I should write or talk about an important, but emotional topic of land transformation with a particular emphasis on agriculture.
For me, I believe that for us to make progress and ensure sustainable development in our country there are two competing concepts and ideas that we need to balance.
Firstly, we need to ensure that agriculture is sustainable for the short, medium and long-term basis. Whilst this is not politically correct for now, unfortunately the work of economics and financials requires stability and predictability. It does not respond well to surprises, shocks and lack of predictability.
This means, for our agricultural industries to succeed, we need to maintain the presence of large and successful farmers, whether black or white. They have skills, resources and scale to ensure that our agriculture sector can compete with the best in the world. South Africa should not be importing food. We have good farmers in our country that we can double the export for agriculture business.
To bring revenue in our country, whilst creating employment for South Africans, we therefore need to be telling big farmers that we love you, we will protect you and we will help you grow!
The idea that we will take land without compensation does not hold well in ensuring sustainability and for prosperity. If I were a large farmer and white, I would be hesitant to invest further in agriculture if I were to hear talks of nationalisation or the taking of land without compensation. We need to reassure these farmers of their future if we want to compete with the best in the world.
Secondly, we need to drive radical transformation. It is clear that we need to have an inclusive agricultural sector. If we are not inclusive, we will be like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode. We need to create more opportunity and see more involvement from the middle class people within the agricultural sector. We need to see more black people moving up in the agricultural sector.
For me, the term “radical transformation” is not necessarily just about the time it takes to achieve transformation or to transform the sector. Of course, we must aim to achieve transformation and fast as possible. However, for me, radical means we have to come up with different and innovative ideas. We cannot continue doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.
Large farmers need to commit to transfer skills to emerging farmers in a real and practical way. They need to share their resources with emerging farmers in their neighbourhoods. They need to invest time and resources to ensure that the few emerging farmers in their neighbourhoods are successful. The success of the emerging farmers is the guarantee of stability and a future for large farmers.
Thirdly, there are vast tracks of land that belong to government. Through land recapitalisation, government bought more land. A small piece of this land is being rented out to few black emerging famers, like myself.
The government should be selling this land at affordable prices and rates to black emerging farmer. The concept of long 20-year leases by the government does not make sense.
Government should put emerging black farmers onto available government land. They need to emerging farmers a 3 to 5 year lease with clear, upfront criteria for success. When these emerging farmers meet the criteria for success they need to be able to buy the land at reasonable prices so that they can have a stake in the game. Not just, give it for free.
Anything given for free (in most cases) is not valued by the recipient. In addition, the government does not have never-ending resources to give people farms for free forever.
As said above, the large-scale farmers, particularly the white farmers must help black emerging farmers to be successful.
Finance institutions, particularly state owned landing institutions must help black emerging farmers with access to funding. The criteria cannot be based on past success for emerging farmers. It must be based on sound future success based in technical support from experienced large-scale farmers, passion for farming and a clear business plan outlining how one plans to invest, drive productivity and grow the business in the future. The financing institutions need to put monitoring mechanisms in place that will help identify problems very early on and help put in place corrective action. Yes, there will be failures, but I am convinced there will be more success than failures.
Lastly, the government and large farmers need to help emerging farmer’s access the markets, GOOD MARKETS! Black emerging farmers should not have to scramble for poor markets which are fragmented and do not have good margins, we need to ensure that we share the cream of the market with black emerging farmers.
In conclusion, there is a lot of talk about this subject and we do not have enough time to go through all the ideas. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, these are my views; it is about partnership between government and farmers.
It is about partnerships between large-scale farmers and emerging farmers.
It is about partnership between white farmers and black farmers.
It is about partnerships between land/financial institutions.
It is about a partnership between male and female farmers!
Enough for this month!
CEO/Owner – Velarose Family Farm