Afrikaans speaking commercial farmers play an indispensable role in the production of food

16 November 2017
“The majority of the almost 40 000 commercial farmers in our country, is Afrikaans speaking and certainly plays an indispensable role in the production of food, the development of human capital, economic stimulation of rural areas, job creation, empowerment and as a foreign currency earner.” – Christo van der Rheede (deputy executive director of Agri SA).

Agriculture performs above average

Not only does agriculture play a critical role in terms of food security, it is also a major foreign currency earner for South Africa. Despite a volatile economic situation in South Africa, agriculture has shown a growth of 22% during the second quarter and 33% in the third quarter. This despite facing challenges such as droughts, pests, dumping of overseas products, and more on a daily basis.

Import and export

The estimated value of agricultural imports for 2015 – ’16 was R76 billion – a growth of 22,1% compared to R62 billion in 2014 – ’15.

  • Wheat and grain products (R6 billion), maize (R5 billion), rice (R5 billion), meat (R5 billion) and undenatured ethyl alcohol (R3 billion), accounted for the largest imports by value.
  • The value of agricultural exports increased with 0,2% from R82 billion in 2014 – ’15 to R83 billion in 2015 – ’16.
  • Key commodities, such as citrus (R12 billion), wine (R8 billion), table grapes (R6 billion), apples, pears and quinces (R6 billion) and maize (R3 billion), accounted for the largest exports by value.

The contribution of agriculture to our economy

  • In 2016, the tax commercial farmers paid on gross farming income amounted to R259 billion.
  • Expenditure on agricultural goods and services amounted to R122 billion in 2016, making it a major economic participant in rural areas.
  • Salaries and wages were around R17 billion in 2016. This sector employs 900 000 employees and includes housing and other benefits.
  • Commercial farmers and agricultural processing companies also pay training fees, which amounted to about R400 million in 2016, to finance the AgriSeta’s development and empowerment programmes.
  • Farming debt amounted to R144 billion in 2016 - an indication of the huge commitment of commercial farmers to food production, and in the long term, food security.

The transfer of knowledge

The arrival of the land reform programme in South Africa also required commercial farmers to convey their knowledge to emerging farmers in order to transfer the required skills and to create a new generation of successful farmers. The contribution to farmer development programmes by Agri SA’s affiliates increased from R46,5 million in the 2011 – 2012 production year to R141,6 million in 2015 – ’16 and to R300 million in 2016 – ’17.

More than 40 000 emerging farmers benefit annually from the various projects. Commercial farmers can thus be trusted with food security. Says Christo van der Rheede: “Food production by commercial farmers requires hard work, discipline, personal drive and determination. They know farming is an enterprise with high risks and that the production of affordable, good quality food requires a practical approach.”

American pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, said the following: “No horse gets anywhere until it is harnessed. No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No waterfall is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, and disciplined.” Commercial farmers know this all too well. You can have all the land and tools in the world, but if entrepreneurship and commercial, practical business insight are lacking, no large-scale food production will take place. Let’s support our commercial farmers, regardless of whether they are big, small, black or white, because they are the only ones that will prevent “food load shedding” and large-scale hunger in South Africa.

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