12 February 2021
The president presented arguably his most important State of the Nation Address (SONA) owing to the unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, says Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA.
According to Agri SA the president outlined a four-point focused plan: defeating Covid-19, accelerating economic recovery, implementing economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth, as well as fighting corruption.
Three of these are not new and Agri SA has continued to reinforce that South Africa is not policy bankrupt but remains challenged by the timeous and effective implementation thereof.
Reflecting on some key aspects of the address, Agri SA has the following views:
In the midst of the economic damage caused by Covid-19, South Africa’s agricultural sector has performed remarkably well.
In 2020, we became the world’s second-largest exporter of citrus, with strong export growth in wine, maize, nuts, deciduous fruit and sugar cane.
Agri SA appreciates the recognition given for the sector; agriculture and the value chain remains a critical player as a contributor to the GDP and should receive further support.
We have now developed an infrastructure investment project pipeline worth R340 billion in network industries such as energy, water, transport and telecommunications.
Agri SA welcomes infrastructure development that will benefit the farming community as well as industries in the value chain.
The second priority intervention of the Recovery Plan is to support a massive increase in local production and to make South African exports globally competitive.
Agri SA welcomes this initiative and will actively take part and support the growth of the sector.
Poverty is on the rise. Inequality is deepening. Our unemployment rate now stands at a staggering 30,8%.
Our third priority intervention is an employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods. The largest numbers of jobs will be created by the private sector in a number of industries as the economy recovers.
The newly announced national minimum wage will undermine the agricultural sector’s ability to create more jobs and to remain profitably. Many farmers have experienced drought for prolonged periods and the pandemic had a devastating impact on many subsectors. South Africa is experiencing an all-time high in terms of unemployment and any excessive salary increases as gazetted by the Minister of Labour will exacerbate the unemployment crisis in the country. Ignoring this fact will be at the country’s own peril.
The fourth priority intervention of the Recovery Plan is to rapidly expand energy generation capacity.
The agricultural sector remains ready to plug in and we continue to call upon the relevant stakeholders to partner with farmers to resolve the long-standing energy crisis.
We will finalise and implement the revised raw water pricing strategy and accelerate the establishment of a national Water Resources Infrastructure Agency.
Agri SA will take part in processes to ensure a favourable outcome for farmers.
During the course of the next financial year, we will establish a Land and Agrarian Reform Agency to fast-track land reform.
Clarity is needed on the function of such an agency. Agri SA, over a long period, promoted the idea of an SPV to take land reform forward.
Crimes like cable theft, railway infrastructure vandalism, land invasions, construction site disruptions and attacks on truck drivers hamper economic activity and discourage investment. We have taken steps and will continue to stop these crimes and deal with those responsible in terms of the law.
Accelerating the conviction of criminals remains at the core of successfully realising this feat.
“The road ahead remains a challenging prospect and in order for us as a nation to weather the storm as well as set ourselves on a desirable trajectory, government needs to start coming to the party with the implementation of all these and other focus points,” Van der Rheede says.
Christo van der Rheede
Agri SA Executive Director