DUE to a succession of disinterested, corrupt, incompetent and semi-literate governments, South Africans face the threat of becoming food importers due to a lack of coherent and realistic strategic security and support policies for the agricultural sector.
Importing food is bad enough from a financial point of view, but worse is the loss of almost 50% of farmers since the 1990s, decline in production, rapidly increasing production costs and resulting financial pressures on middle and low income earners, who spend most of their money on food.
Of course bad living and working conditions on farms are also to blame, along with documented cases of worker exploitation by greedy farmers.
Still, even those who try their best to take care of employees face serious problems due to shifting weather patterns, rising production costs, resistance of unionised workers to automation and threats of land expropriation by a government which has done almost nothing to support South African farmers since 1994.
Worse than state neglect is the current use of problems in the agricultural sector by politicians to foment social unrest in areas where they seek to destabilise opposition party governance and their refusal to acknowledge that the departments of labour and agriculture bear the historical, legal and moral responsibility for the terrible state of South Africa’s agriculture.
After all how many farms were inspected and subsidies awarded in the last 18 years?
How many rural security and development programmes were launched besides the Nkandla compound?
Given the nature of reports in the media, it’s safe to say what was done lies somewhere between not much and negative infinity. Neglect and use of agriculture as a political football has to stop. The state needs to work with the farming sector to create and implement a security policy and launch nationwide development programmes for better access to education, health, infrastructure, community facilities and government offices in rural areas.
In the long term this will benefit the workers, lead to farming being seen once again as an honourable and vital occupation, improve food security, lower costs through increased production, decrease financial pressures on low and middle income earners, reduce migration to urban areas, increase GDP and tax revenue and put South Africa among the leading food exporters of the world.
For that we need leaders with the education, vision and willingness to serve us. Sadly, that’s not the current crop (pun intended).
M Negres, Port Elizabeth