South Africa’s agricultural industry has for the most part welcomed yesterday’s budget speech by Tito Mboweni but more needs to be done to protect and promote the country’s food production sector.
Commenting on the news that R495.1 million has been set aside for improving biosecurity in the interests of exports - especially red meat given the recent spate of food-and-mouth disease (FMD) incidents in Limpopo - Unisa researcher Willie Clack said it was long overdue.
A fellow farmer and vice chair of the Red Meat Producers’ Association (RMPO), Clack said when he heard the finance minister mention biosecurity, “I thought good heavens, someone has woken up”.
Speaking at a budget presentation hosted by Absa AgriBusiness, he stressed that biosecurity and the perceived lack thereof was having a significant impact on the agricultural industry.
“It’s killing our revenue stream and we need to take ownership of the problem.”
Part of the challenges facing farmers, he stressed, was outdated legislation overseeing the farming sector.
“We have animal health acts that were promulgated in 1984. They’re old and we need to revamp them. Our immediate traceability system as well" – of outbreaks such as FMD – "that’s where the money needs go to.”
He also advocated an overhaul of outdated stock theft legislation and other acts that were out of sync with changes in South Africa’s agricultural environment.
Touching on comments made about the necessity for transformation in agriculture by Dr Langelihle Simela, business development manager at Absa AgriBusiness, Clack remarked that there was strong potential for growth.
“Take small-scale farmers whose weaner rate sits at 32%. Imagine if we can transform that industry and get them to wean 60%. We could double the amount of meat produced in this country.”
It goes to show, he added, “that it’s not just about money but management. If we can improve on things we could see the changes we all would like to see”. – Eugene Goddard