Success of Minister Didiza plans depends on successful collaboration between public and private sector

Success of Minister Didiza plans depends on successful collaboration between public and private sector


Agri SA welcomes the acknowledgement by Minister Thoko Didiza of the critical role of commercial agriculture in securing food for all South Africans and other parts of the world. The close collaboration between the Ministry and the agricultural sector as well as the timely interventions by the Minister herself was of great help during 2020 when the industry faced severe challenges caused by the lockdown. For this we applaud her.

The agricultural prospects for this year look good, but the sector faces various challenges such as increases in the price of inputs, challenges in the logistics sector, lack of responsiveness by some DRDLR staff, lack of co-ordination between government departments, rising criminality in rural areas and lack of support to commercial farmers in drought-stricken areas and those negatively affected by floods and lack of funding from the Land Bank.

Whilst the Minister has placed huge emphasis on the role that her Department is playing in terms of supporting new farmers and the interventions related to other support measures, support to the commercial sector must be made available in equal measures. The growth in the commercial sector must not be taken for granted and should not be regarded as an indicator that everything is good and well in this sector.

Agriculture is a high risk business and commercial agriculture especially is exposed to the volatility of global markets and the destructive impact of many other variables. In this regard, we appeal to the Minister to engage continuously with the commercial sector in an effort to address the challenges that commercial farmers also face.

The success of the action plans announced by the Minister depends on successful implementation, monitoring, evaluation and continuous assessment and support. In this regard, the private sector can play a huge role, but it needs to be taken on board right from the start. Moreso agreements between the public and private sector must make legal and commercial sense.  The commercialization model by Tiger Brands which the Minister referred to in her speech, is a case in point.

Commodity organisations and provincial organisations representing commercial farmers all over South Africa as well as individual commercial farmers have been establishing such commercial models with great success for many years already.

Some of the action plans by the Minister include farms to various beneficiaries. How will these beneficiaries be supported? By whom will they be trained? What are the measures that will be put in place to ensure that their tenure rights will be secured? And how will they be integrated into commodity structures for continuous support and access to markets?

In this respect, Agri SA welcomes the announcement by the Minister that the Deeds Registry will be employed to ensure that farm leases that are earmarked for farmers are registered in order to create certainty for financial institutions and interested investors.

Agri SA also appeals to the Minister to properly investigate those responsible for highjacking farms for their personal gain. The Rakgase, Cloete and Zigana cases, is a case in point. Whilst there is a need to overhaul the department’s system of property management, everything must be done to root out corruption and incompetent staff. The lack of accountability and consequence management must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The details of policies such as the Land Donations Policy requires extensive consultation with the commercial sector. Such a policy must be linked to the Agri BEE scorecard as must also be premised on other incentives as well. Herein lies a massive opportunity to address the slow pace of land reform should it be packaged in such a way that it gives greater certainty and protection to existing commercial farmers. 

In terms of the employment stimulus support programmes rolled out in 2020 as well as the support provided to subsistence farmers, the Minister must investigate the alleged incidences of farmer relief voucher fraud.  This also applies to the money spent on Agri Parks which in most instances are barely functional.

Proper monitoring and evaluation must accompany strategies related to the Employment of Extension Officers, the announced regulatory services to address biosecurity matters, the employment of 50 animal health technicians and the new Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine production facility to be built.

A great worry remains the Land Bank as well as the uncertainty around the Expropriation Bill and proposed amendment of Section 25 of the national Constitution. Any attempt to expropriate productive farms and land in general without compensation will not only undermine the growth of the sector for the past few years and into the future, but it will destroy South Africa’s economy and its standing in the international world.

We trust that the Blended Finance Scheme (BFS) will leverage the expected private funding to support investments that will unlock and enhance agricultural production, agro-processing and comprehensive land acquisition by black producers. This process must also be closely monitored and guarded to prevent those with ill intent to defraud the scheme.  Commercial agriculture regards this scheme and commercial partnerships as an alternative to expropriation without compensation.


Christo van der Rheede

Agri SA Executive Director

(C) 083 380 3492