Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana,
Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba,
The Leadership of AFASA,
The Captains of Industry,
Members of the academia,
Members of the media,
Good evening to you all! Sanibonani, Molweni, Riperile, Dumelang, Ndi madekwana!
I am honoured to be part of this landmark African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) Agribusiness Transformation Conference.
The agricultural sector plays a crucial role in the economy. We value our agricultural sector immensely because it contributes to economic development as well as food security and job creation for our people.
The pioneers of the field of agribusiness at the Harvard Business School, Davis and Goldberg in 1957 defined agribusiness as the sum total of all operations involved in the manufacture and distribution of farm supplies, production operations on the farm, and the storage, processing, and distribution of the resulting farm commodities and items.
It includes all operations on the farm which means your conference is holistic in its approach to transformation.
In our socio-economic development blueprint, the National Development Plan, we estimate that agriculture has the potential to create one million jobs by the year 2030.
A productive agriculture sector also has the potential to transform our rural areas into sustainable economic centres. Our vision for rural development will thus be fully realised when we successfully expand and develop our agriculture sector.
This conference is thus an important contribution towards strengthening and advancing the agricultural sector, and most importantly, towards the transformation of the sector.
We meet during a difficult period in our country when the economy is under duress.
The country faces challenges of sustained low growth and investment, rising unemployment and the deteriorating position of public finances. In the last budget, growth was expected to be 1.3 per cent. It is now expected that it will be below 0.5 per cent.
The weak consumer demand and stagnant business investment in the economy continue to be a challenge. This is exacerbated by the consistent slow growth of the global economy.
Lower economic growth means lower revenue and more pressure on the fiscus.
However, it is possible to turn the situation around. It requires determination, unity and the willingness of all sectors to pull together.
Government recently announced some actions that we will undertake to improve the implementation of a number of important existing ANC economic policy interventions.
If we implement these interventions successfully, which are linked to our Nine Point Plan, we can breathe some life into the economy. Areas of focus include energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture and industrialisation. They also include managing our state owned enterprises better, advancing information technology development as well as science and technology innovation.
Government departments have clear targets and action plans as outlined by the Minister of Finance recently.
The agriculture sector has been identified as a key platform for both transformation and growth and job creation. We are pleased therefore that the theme of this conference talks to the Transformation of Agribusiness.
Let me emphasise that that such transformation does not mean destroying what we have and what works. It also does not mean that we want to destroy commercial agriculture. We fully support all our farmers, black and white, established and emerging.
Transformation is aimed at allowing the entry of black people to participate meaningfully in the economy, and in this case, the food production value chain.
In the State of the Nation Address in February 2017, we directed Government to take the lead in effecting radical socio-economic transformation in our country as mandated by the governing party.
We said that by radical socio-economic transformation, we mean “fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
To advance this goal in agriculture, government will continue to provide support to smallholder farmers. We also appreciate the feedback we receive from our stakeholders such as AFASA on what else we need to do to provide further support.
In your recent memorandum to me you called upon the President to ensure that government farmer development and support programmes are implemented.
You also requested that we declare 2017 the year of the commercialisation of the black smallholder farmers. Indeed government has committed itself to support the commercialisation programme for 450 black smallholder farmers per year.
You raised other issues as well and I directed the departments responsible for agriculture and rural development to engage with all the issues you raised in your petition to me.
We indicated that government will utilise all strategic levers at its disposal to advance transformation.
In your sector, government is finalising the AgriBEE Enforcement Regulations to enforce Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment through the Government levers such as licenses, permits, concessions, authorisations grants and incentives.
The AgriBEE Sector Code provides guidelines for transformation in the agriculture sector. Some of the significant aspects in the Amended AgriBEE Sector Code is the inclusion of Farm Workers under Ownership Scorecard.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has also established the AgriBEE Fund, which is geared towards increasing black entrepreneurs in the sector.
The Fund covers the funding of qualifying enterprise development initiatives, which are targeted at creating economic access and participation for black people in the agricultural sector.
I have requested the department to continuously report on the implementation of the AgriBEE Sector Code government undertakings.
In this regard, the national and provincial agriculture departments will provide status reports on their implementation of BEE elements such as Employment Equity, Management Control, Skills Development, Preferential Procurement, Enterprise Development and the Socio-Economic Development.
Currently, the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with the Forest Sector Charter Council, is working on the development of a Funding Scheme for Black Foresters. Work is definitely being done to ensure transformation in the sector.
We also urge our farmers to utilise the existing programmes such as the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, Ilima/Letsema, LandCare, and MAFISA, the Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa which seeks to address the financial services needs of the smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.
We have also introduced innovative programmes such as the Agricultural Parks or Agriparks in all 53 District Municipalities. The parks will provide much needed markets for emerging farmers.
We are also looking at the establishment of more marketing outlets for emerging farmers and the establishment of local municipal markets.
The ANC lekgotla at the weekend discussed an important issue of possibly providing preferential access for emerging farmers into large government markets such as hospitals, schools or prisons.
We are also aware of the need to invest in recruiting, training and supporting agricultural extension officers, who should be knowledgeable and able to assist farmers.
With regards to the future of the sector, we are encouraged that young people are demonstrating a keen interest in the acquisition of land. We should ensure that this interest goes beyond land ownership to the willingness to productively utilise the land.
We would be happy to see more learners taking up agriculture as a subject and more of them going to agricultural colleges.
The agriculture, forestry and fisheries department has developed the Young Producers and Entrepreneurs Strategy that seeks to primarily support the establishment of youth owned and/or managed enterprises, youth entrepreneurs, and other activities that will encourage active participation of youth in the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors.
Recently, the department has introduced the Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (YAFF) also known as the Hashtag YAFF (#YAFF).
This youth initiative intends to increase the participation of young producers or entrepreneurs in the mainstream of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors.
It also encourages the South African youth to aspire for excellence in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
Transformation must also include women in agriculture. Government, through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, recognises Women in Agriculture through its flagship programme known as the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
All the interventions in agriculture will succeed if all sectors work together.
It is for this reason that we developed the Operation Phakisa in Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform programme in agriculture, which we launched in February this year in Tshwane. It brings together government, business, labour, academia and the agricultural sector to find solutions and boost the agriculture sector.
The Operation Phakisa on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is aimed at helping us to stimulate growth, promote job creation and transformation in the agriculture and rural development sectors.
Earlier, I mentioned the need for us to promote investor and consumer confidence.
We will achieve this goal through improving the implementation of our various programmes.
Importantly, we can improve the confidence of our people in us and of external stakeholders such as foreign investors, through effectively dealing with corruption and activities that cause negative perceptions about our country.
We remain fully committed to clean governance. Funds that are allocated for public services must be used for public services and nothing else. There must be no deviation in this regard.
I therefore wish to assure you all that law enforcement agencies have been authorised to deal decisively with corruption and crime in both the private and public sectors.
If certain individuals or companies have been involved in criminal activities, this information must be provided to the police so that investigations can be undertaken. Nobody is above the law in our country.
Let me congratulate you on holding this important conference which is significant for our economy.
Let us work together, as the public and private sectors, to transform, strengthen and boost our agricultural sector.
I wish you success with the rest of the conference and look forward to receiving a report on the outcome.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa