JEFFREYS BAY – AGRI South Africa president Dan Kriek moved to reassure Eastern Cape farmers on Friday that organised agriculture would adopt a progressive, partnership-driven approach to land reform.
Speaking on the final day of the Agri EC annual congress, Kriek called on farmers to maintain “a cool head” in the face of uncertainty and to acknowledge the strength of the moral and Constitutional argument for land reform, while also making the economic case against expropriation without compensation.
“The expropriation [without compensation] debate is an unnecessary one,” he said, adding that it was important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to engage in social investment.
“We are not just white farmers, but represent South Africans of all creeds and colours,” Kriek told delegates.
Kriek said it was vital to afford people property rights, especially security of tenure in communal areas, and to protect the rights of those who already had them.
According to Agri SA’s 2018 transformation report released in April this year, organised agriculture spent R331-million on transformation initiatives nationally, with 109 059 black farmers benefiting from training and development, recapitalisation initiatives, mentorship opportunities and the like.
Kriek said changing the Constitution would not put more black farmers on the land and that the pace of land reform had in fact slowed since 2007, due to a decline in state funding. Public-private partnerships as outlined in the organisation’s holistic plan were key to moving transformation and development forward, he said. These included partnerships with government, the private sector, value chain role players, corporates, communal farmers, farmers and farmworkers.
International strategy consultant Professor John Westwood told the 126 delegates that the amount of inbound international investment into South Africa suggested that investors saw sound business opportunities, which farmers should capitalise on.
“There are reasons to be positive,” said Westwood. He said change was inevitable and that farmers needed to move quickly and employ technology to build world-class businesses and shape the way forward.
On the opening day of congress, the director of research at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute (ASRI), Angelo Fick, said South Africans could not rely on government to provide solutions to the land question, but needed to find new ways of addressing inequality together.
Agri EC president Doug Stern said the general council had sanctioned the formation of its own “transformation hub”, aimed primarily at engaging with the government on failed land reform projects and finding alternative ways of establishing black commercial farmers successfully on the land.
“We need to make some compromises to take the process forward,” said Stern.
Aside from changes in the political climate, delegates also heard about actual climate change from Eastern Cape regional manager for the SA Weather Service, Hugh van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk said various medium to long-term climate scenarios predicted serious consequences for the agricultural industry. These include an increase in temperatures, more frequent droughts, more intense flooding and a rise in sea levels and sea surges.
While “normal to slightly above average” rainfall was expected over the next two weeks in the Kouga area, he said it would dry out again from mid-August.
“It won’t be enough to fill our dams,” said Van Niekerk.