Agri SA’s Rural Safety Committee yesterday met with a high-level police delegation and other representatives of the country’s security forces for in-depth discussions and planning regarding various rural safety aspects that threaten the security of the farming community. “We appreciate the police’s involvement and the seriousness with which they regard the agricultural community’s safety”, said Agri SA President, Johannes Möller.
The unacceptable situation regarding farm attacks and murders, which have serious consequence for the farming community, received specific attention. The committee warned that farm attack and murder statistics should be used cautiously so as to not stir up emotions unnecessarily.
“The incorrect use of statistics leads to restlessness within the agricultural community. An analysis of recent farm murder statistics reported in the media shows that some of these murders, according to definition of a farm attack, are not farm murders. The incidence of recent farm murder speaks volumes about the sustained criminal onslaught on farmers, farm workers and their families, which is clearly not conducive for food security in South Africa and the stability of rural areas”, said Möller.
Agri SA is committed to the Operation Phakisa process but will not allow it to be hijacked for sectarian and narrow political agendas by President Jacob Zuma or any other politician, the agricultural union said on Saturday.
President Jacob Zuma had contradicted the good work done in Operation Phakisa with confusing political rhetoric, Agri SA said in a statement.
WATCH: President Zuma launches Operation Phakisa
The launch of the agriculture, land reform, and rural development leg of Operation Phakisa on Friday by Zuma and the ministers of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries and rural development and land reform was the net result of wide consultation and extensive engagement over a period of six months between organised agriculture, government officials, agriculture experts, labour unions, non-governmental organisations, state entities, and various other stakeholders with vested interests in agriculture, Agri SA said.
Seven working groups were established and came up with 27 implementable and pragmatic initiatives aimed at growing and transforming the agricultural sector. This process took place under the auspices of the presidency and a range of specialists ensured that every initiative was practically feasible, sustainable, and commercially viable.
Agri SA says it has no record of farmers who were assisted with drought relief through the R2.5 billion mentioned by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
The organisation says most farmers had to get loans from First Land Bank to ensure that they could survive the drought conditions.
Agri SA’s President Johannes Moller says they have approached the Agriculture Department for an outline of how the R2.5 billion was calculated.
“Farmers from all walks of life have pressed us for help because there was no help coming from the government.”
Moller says the president’s announcement that the Land Expropriation Bill will again be assessed in Parliament shows uncertainty on the part of government.
“It’s completely inextricable to us how the people who wrote this couldn’t even coordinate it.”
Agri SA says it is hoping to get to the bottom of this issue.
The agricultural sector was considering the adoption of smart disaster aid after sections of the industry were brought to their knees by the prolonged drought, Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said on Monday. “By ‘smart’ we mean that we take small bites at it to help ourselves over the next few years,” Van Zyl said.
The plan would also include favourable financing repayment periods through state-backed development banks. Such discussions were ongoing, he said.
Another leg to the plan was to create a bail-out fund over the long term to combat future droughts as the commercial farming sector is not a direct beneficiary of the government’s disaster relief. Van Zyl cited the sector’s maturity and the willingness of banks to assist farmers as factors that could help the plan off the ground.
“We cannot have a year like we’ve had last year. We didn’t have the mechanisms to support the farmers through the period,” Van Zyl said.
Among the worst-hit was the sugar industry but it is expected to recover following high rainfall. Sectors that depend on maize and soya beans for stockfeed, such as the poultry and pork industries, saw margins shrink because of higher feed prices and greater imports, especially from Europe.