AFASA to address transformation in the agri-sector

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The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) will host a ground-breaking Agribusiness Transformation Conference, which aims to involve both public and private stakeholders to have an honest review of transformation in the sector and will look at ways to address structural bottlenecks that hinder transformation.

“The conference is a platform to bring into focus, the attempts of transformation by both public and private institutions and critically reflect on investment strategies to advance inclusive and competitive agri-industry,” said Dr Vuyo Mahlati, AFASA President. She said the industry needs to investigate which have been seen as successful practices and those which have not. “At the end of it, the main focus is to have a collaborative approach on transformation to create a viable and inclusive commercial farming sector and agribusinesses,” explained Dr Mahlati.

Skills development key to competitiveness

Given the heightened public interest around the need to accelerate economic transformation, AFASA will host the Agribusiness Transformation Conference from 31 July to 1 August 2017 at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg.

The conference will showcase efforts to promote commercial black farmers and entrepreneurs with exhibitions. Participants will include farmers, commodity associations, funders, policy makers, academics and agribusiness players across diverse value chains.  The issue of political will in driving transformation is pivotal. Hence the keynote speaker will be President Jacob Zuma and Minister Zokwana. Other high-level speakers include the minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, Minister Lindiwe Zulu of Small Business Development, ANC Head of Economic Transformation Committee, Enoch Gondongwana, Land Bank CEO, TP Nchocho and other key role-players in the sector.

Land and water

AFASA has always advocated for transformation in all commodities and their value chains to allow black farmers and agribusinesses to participate meaningfully. “But we cannot only push for a commercial commodity approach without addressing the land and water issue, as the two are intertwined. In the Western Cape for example, only around 1% of land under commercial fruit production is in black hands, while in the sugar industry only 20%,” Dr Mahlati said.

AFASA is hosting a pre-conference Land and Water Roundtable on Sunday 30 July 2017 to put into perspective the social justice and agri-production elements of land reform. On its first day, the conference will focus on land and water under the theme Land Reform and Economic Transformation.

Farmer Support

“We are establishing a knowledge centre in collaboration with the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) to support farmers with information and act as a bridge between the diverse means of support. We have also engaged with different agricultural commodity organisations, because we understand that our job is to catalyse the linkages and play an oversight role in terms of how transformation is fast tracked and whether it is fair and just,“ says Dr Mahlati.

Transformation: Back to basics

AFASA has partnered with abovementioned stakeholders to present a programme collaborating all the work that has been done and what still needs to be done. The conference brings everyone into the same room with different commodity associations having breakaway sessions to investigate the progress and initiatives in their own industries.

“We believe that the issue of transformation is everyone’s responsibility – black and white, men and women, young and old, public and private organisations. For the South African agricultural industry to grow and be competitive globally, we have to get it right and make sure we don’t have a narrow focus on transformation,” concluded Dr Mahlati. –Press release

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