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Agriculture: the key to our food security

Nov 3rd 2011, 08:20


Agriculture: the key to our food security

Agriculture is one of South Africa’s most important industries and accounts for a large percentage of our GDP. It’s already a large employer, has potential to create more jobs and is a major driver of investment. But, reports suggesting that thousands of commercial farmers could give up their land are distressing, especially when considering that agriculture is essential to our food security.

Farmers need support from both government and investors to grow otherwise they’re likely to seek opportunities outside SA. Many farmers are already doing this and more will follow suit if government can’t relax its regulations and pending policies.

The recent green paper on land reform has done little to put minds at ease and makes farming less attractive. If implemented, it would limit farmers’ ability to expand their land and instill less confidence in the sector. On the contrary farming needs to become more attractive so we can limit our dependence on imports and increase investment in agriculture.

For the agriculture sector to grow farmers are going to need the support of government in the form of subsidies and legislation that is conducive to large scale investment. Once there is a receptive environment for large scale food production, it will become viable for skilled farmers to ply their trade here in South Africa. The knock on effects of a vibrant agricultural sector will very soon be felt throughout the economy by increased employment, lower food inflation, foreign investment and a reduced trade deficit.

Without policy and financial support the future of agriculture in South Africa looks dismal. This would represent a huge oversight since we have the resources to guarantee food security and make farming sustainable.

Wendy Smith and Craig Ballantyne

P.S. Look out for this editorial on our editor’s blog.

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