Subsistence farmers in the Free State have decreased by 37 000 from quarter to quarter and 25 000 from year to year.
Agricultural sector should be targets of support, not negative politics.
Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature
13 November 2018
Our agricultural sector in the Free State remains in a serious predicament that is the result of hostile environmental conditions, a dangerous security situation, a belligerent political domain and a negative economic environment.
The current heat wave is another warning that climate change as a result of global warming is a reality.
The negative economic environment similarly affects this sector as commodity prices are not increasing in line with production cost increases such as fuel, fertiliser, labour and many others. While this is taking place cheaper imported goods have had a devastating effect on the industry, particularly in the areas of dairy and poultry.
On a political level, the policy uncertainty as a result of apprehension over expropriation without compensation that appears to want to punish farmers for government’s failure to implement effective land reform has devastated the investment outlook in this crucial sector.
Farmers are also subject to continuous negative political rhetoric and violent farm attacks. Such attacks are un-proportionally violent and often include torture and murders.
Our subsistence farmers are not excluded from these conditions. The latest statistics South Africa quarterly labour report in October 2018 indicates that subsistence farmers in the Free State have decreased by 37 000 from quarter to quarter and 25 000 from year to year.
The annual report of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for 2017/18 indicates that two key programmes meant to assist our farmers, namely Farmer Support and Development and Structured Agricultural Training both only met 50% of their targets. Statistics for the first and second quarters of this year indicate similar trends in the Department. This indicates a lack of capacity or will in the department to assist our farmers.
We must not forget that humans cannot exist without food. Our province and country cannot afford to continue on this destructive trend that threatens our agricultural sector.
The numbers of our commercial farmers, who are the prime sources of food in our towns and cities, have decreased from 61 000 in 2006, to 46 000 in 2012, to 38 000 in 2015 and predictions are that they could be as low as 8000 by 2030.
If food security is a priority for our growing urban population, which it should be, then we need to literally put our money where our mouth is and support our agricultural sector.