The agricultural industry reacts to SONA 2024

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In the wake of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2024 state of the nation address (SONA), the South African agricultural sector has responded with mixed reactions.

“We acknowledge the progress highlighted in land reform initiatives but stress the need for concerted efforts to align with the objectives of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP),” said AgriSA chief executive officer Johann Kotzé. “Agriculture stands central to this plan, and comprehensive strategies are imperative to address the sector’s challenges and capitalise on its opportunities.”

Furthermore, AgriSA echoes the sentiments shared regarding the need for strong public–private partnerships to drive progress in key sectors such as energy, logistics, and infrastructure. “We are pleased to see tangible progress resulting from collaborative efforts between the sector and government in addressing key issues such as logistics, energy, and combating crime and corruption, as highlighted by the president.”

Addressing the performance issues in these sectors is crucial to unlocking the full potential of the agricultural industry, enabling it to contribute significantly to economic development.

He says the sustainability and positive impact of the South African agricultural industry on society and the economy hinge on urgent and substantial structural reforms within these sectors.

Read more about the expectations for the agricultural sector in 2024 here.

The sector’s contributions to land reform recognised

Agbiz chairperson, Francois Strydom also weighed in, welcoming the acknowledgement of real gains in land reform.

“As can be expected in an election year, the focus was largely on counting the successes of the fourth administration. While we would have liked to see bolder steps taken to stimulate our economy, the value of recognising the sector’s efforts towards land reform cannot be overstated. The agricultural sector is highly competitive and capital-intensive. In the absence of direct state support, inter-generational knowledge and investments are often required to buffer against shocks brought on by a volatile market and climate.

This is a tough environment for new entrants, but despite these challenges, we have managed to achieve a real and lasting transformation. The industry has played a significant role in this transformation by providing skills transfer and financial and technical support. Acknowledgement of the progress that we have made is a breath of fresh air, especially after an attempt in the recent past to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation.

A special mention must also be made of the role that Agbiz’s members, affiliates, and staff have played in the process, as vindicated by the president’s mention of our chief economist, Wandile Sihlobo. We are proud of these achievements, and it is heartening to see recognition given where it is due,” he said.

Outside of land reform, Agbiz CEO, Theo Boshoff noted the following: “Aside from encouraging remarks on land reform, the address provided little in the way of policy direction for the coming year. Instead, the address provided a status update on several processes that are underway.

We can interpret this in one of two ways: on the one hand, the address was devoid of any new ideas or major announcements to stimulate economic growth. On the other hand, one can argue that it was an affirmation that the state is not deviating from commitments made in the previous SONA but rather allowing critical processes to reform our electricity, logistics, and water infrastructure to unfold. The business has invested a great deal of time, capital and goodwill into these collaborative efforts. It seems as if these processes are being supported at a critical time when the temptation must be there to shelve longer-term pragmatic processes in favour of a populist approach. We hope that this trend will continue after the elections, as our economy sorely needs a dose of pragmatism,” Boshoff stated.

Other reactions from the industry were less optimistic, especially concerning infrastructure. According to a statement by TLU SA transport logistics are of cardinal importance for foreign exports and to put food on consumers’ tables. “In the previous SONA, we heard that underperforming ports and railways would receive attention, but it remains a challenge for our producers,” said Bennie van Zyl, general manager of TLU SA. – Compiled by Elmarie Helberg, Plaas Media

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