On 21 September Pres Cyril Ramaphosa announced details of an economic stimulus plan, with the aim of restoring investor confidence, creating jobs and growing the economy and improving socio-economic standards, while the country is facing an economic recession and has been downgraded to junk status by a number of international investment agencies. The Rand improved somewhat after his speech and he has been lauded for firm and decisive, but realistic, decisions.
"Our economic difficulties are severe"
In a very wide-ranging speech, ranging from tourism to health and telecommunications, he acknowledged: “Our economic difficulties are severe and will take an extraordinary effort — and some time — to overcome.”
Part of his speech was devoted to agriculture which, he said, has “massive potential” for job creation. He made specific reference to the domestic poultry sector that is struggling to compete with imports, to black livestock farmers whose entry in the food value chain can be improved through infrastructure like feedlots and abattoirs.
“The Land Bank [a specialist agricultural, government-owned bank, in operation for more than a century] is currently concluding transactions that will create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector over the next three to five years. Blended finance will be mobilised from the Land Bank, Industrial Development Corporation and commercial banks.”
Significant funding for labour-intensive, export-oriented crops
The fruit industry was indirectly mentioned: “A significant portion of the funding will go towards export-oriented crops that are highly labour intensive.”
This would seem to be a reference to industries such as blueberries, whose high labour-intensivity has been attracting a lot of favourable attention, as well as to established fruit export industries where the amount of labour per hectare is much higher than grain and livestock farming, as well as employing tens of thousands of people in packhouses, logistics and quality control.
Advisory land reform panel strong on agricultural expertise
He announced the creation of a ten person panel to advise government on “the implementation of a fair and equitable land reform process that redresses the injustices of the past, increases agricultural output, promotes economic growth and protects food security.”
The composition of the panel has generally been met with approval. It will be led by the current chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, also a member of the governmental National Planning Commission. She owns a cashmere wool processing facility in the Eastern Cape, obtained her Masters degree at the London School of Economics. Her PhD at the University of Stellenbosch looked at the economic potential of the indigenous marula fruit for rural communities.
Also on the panel are Wandile Sihlobo, well-respected agricultural economist at Agbiz, Prof Ruth Hall, one of South Africa’s foremost academics on the matter of land reform, Prof Mohammed Karaan, former Dean of the Faculty of Agrisciences at the University of Stellenbosch and also member of the National Planning Commission.
Other members include Dan Kriek, president of AgriSA, an agricultural industry organisation and two farmers: Thati Moagi, a vegetable farmer of Limpopo with a particular interest in agricultural entrepreneurship in emerging economies, and Nick Serfontein, a cattle farmer from the Free State.
Two of the panel members come from a legal background and the tenth is an educationalist.