17 July 2017
AFASA to address structural bottlenecks stifling transformation in the agri-sector
The African Farmers Association of South Africa’s (AFASA) will host a ground-breaking, Agribusiness Transformation Conference, which aims to involve both public and private stakeholders to have an honest review of transformation in the sector and most importantly will look at ways to address structural bottlenecks that hinder transformation.
“The conference is a platform to bring into focus, the attempts of transformation by both public and private institutions and critically reflect on investment strategies to advance inclusive and competitive agri-industry,” said Dr Vuyo Mahlati, AFASA President. She said the industry needs to interrogate what has been seen as successful practices and those which have not. “At the end of it, the main focus is to have a collaborative approach on transformation to create a viable and inclusive commercial farming sector and agribusinesses,” explained Dr Mahlati.
Given the heightened public interest around the need to accelerate economic transformation, AFASA will host the Agribusiness Transformation Conference from 31st July to 01 August 2017 at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg.
The conference will showcase efforts to promote commercial black farmers and entrepreneurs with exhibitions. Participants will include farmers, commodity associations, funders, policy makers, academics and agribusiness players across diverse value chains. The issue of political will in driving transformation is at the centre hence the keynote speaker being President Jacob Zuma and Minister Zokwana. Other high-level speakers include Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mr Gugile Nkwinti, Minister Lindiwe Zulu of Small Business Development, ANC Head of Economic Transformation Committee, Mr Enoch Gondongwana, Land Bank CEO, Mr TP Nchocho and other key role-players in the sector.
Land and water
AFASA has always advocated for transformation in all commodities and their value chains to allow black farmers and agribusinesses to participate meaningfully. “But we cannot only push for a commercial commodity approach without addressing the land and water issue, as the two are intertwined. In the Western Cape Province for example, only around 1% of land under commercial fruit production is in black hands, whilst in the sugar industry is only 20%,” Dr Mahlati said.
AFASA takes note and appreciates the ANC National Policy Conference which prioritised land reform in its discussions. The discussions at the ANC Policy Conference gave AFASA comfort in knowing that land reform is central to the economic transformation debate. “Ours is to continue to monitor the progression of the debate and ensure that it results in the debottlenecking of the current stumbling blocks that have made it difficult for black farmers to become viable and sustainable participants in the agribusiness sector,” explained Dr Mahlati.
She said AFASA is hosting a Pre-Conference Land and Water Roundtable on Sunday 30 July 2017 to put into perspective the social justice and agri-production elements of land reform. We must ensure that while we do focus on the commercial production approach, we also don’t neglect the responsibility to redress the injustices of the past. On its first day, the conference will focus on land and water under the theme Land Reform and Economic Transformation.
South African smallholder farmers are not happy with the slow pace of land reform and farmer support, which are both critical for transformation in the sector. Therefore, AFASA understands that the responsibility is on it to facilitate such a complex process.
“This is why we have collaborated with institutions such the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) with which we are establishing a knowledge centre to support farmers with information and act as a bridge between the diverse means of support. We also have had a robust engagement with different agricultural commodity organisations, because we understand that our job is to catalyse the linkages and play an oversight role in terms of how transformation is fast tracked and whether it is fair and just”.
AFASA has partnered with the above mentioned stakeholders to present a programme that pulls from all the work that has been done and what still needs to be done. The conference brings everyone in the same room with different commodity associations having breakaway sessions to interrogate the progress and initiatives in their own industries.
“We believe that the issue of transformation is everyone’s responsibility, both black and white, men and women, young and old, public and private organisations. For the South African agricultural industry to grow and be competitive globally, we have to get it right and make sure we don’t have a narrow focus on transformation,” concluded Dr Mahlati.
Mr Aggrey Mahanjana
African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA)
Tel: +27 (0)12 492 1383
Cell: +27 (0)82 556 7297