The future of the South African agricultural sector is dependent on the country and industry making the right policy and investment choices. So cautioned Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) board of directors member Professor Ferdi Meyer on Wednesday. He was speaking at the launch of the BFAP Agricultural Outlook 2019-2028.
"Growth in the future is not that strong," he pointed out. "We [South Africa] alone are a small share of the total [global agricultural] economy. ... Growth is not handed to us."
BFAP has identified four big issues with regard to policy. The first of these is land reform and farmer support. This issue includes policy certainty and property rights. "Policy certainly and property rights are critical to drive investments, incentives and innovation," he observed. Furthermore, although it might seem surprising, South Africa still had unutilised land and unutilised water resources.
The second issue is infrastructure and technology. A very important part of this is water infrastructure. He quoted water experts as saying that it was "do or die for water infrastructure over the next five years". Water was not just the government's responsibility. "[I]t is also the farming community's responsibility," he affirmed. Farmers had to be more responsible in their water use. This was now happening, an example being the much increased use of shadenetting to reduce evaporation of water being used for irrigation. There was also a need to prioritise infrastructure development in the former homeland areas.
Third was statistical baseline information. There was a lot going on in South African agriculture about which little was known. "In the informal [agricultural] sector there is something happening and we're not capturing it," he cited. The country had many very small farms (about one hectare each) which formed the basis of an informal agricultural economy, running within, and important to, local communities. Yet little was known about this sector.
Fourth was a focused drive on increasing South African access to the major international agricultural markets.
BFAP is a nonprofit organisation. Founded in 2004, it exists to carry out unbiased, scientifically rigorous research that is relevant to the agricultural sector.