Province must Develop Platteland Prosperity
"There are very few sectors in our economy that have as much potential to create jobs as agriculture. This is why our Western Cape Government places such emphasis on our programmes to support and expand agriculture in the province." These were the words of Western Cape Premier, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, speaking on Monday at the Kromco fruit packaging and marketing company in Grabouw.
The Premier, accompanied by Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Johan Gelderblom, was visiting Kromco to receive a briefing on the state of the industry and took the opportunity to tour the factory, meeting with workers and management.
"For too many years the Western Cape Government seemed to take the view that the economy of the province stretched from the centre of Cape Town and stopped just short of Sir Lowry's Pass," said the Premier. "Our NNP/ANC Government understands that economic growth and development must reach every community - especially areas like Elgin and Grabouw where key growth industries hold the real potential for Western Cape growth and job creation. This is why our Government has made it a priority to open up these areas to greater investment and to bring increasing numbers of tourists into rural regions like the Overberg through our Platteland Marketing initiatives."
The Premier added that the results of Census 2001 had been very clear: "Although our provincial economy lost about 30 000 jobs between 1996 and 2001 in sectors like manufacturing, we gained more than 32 000 jobs in agriculture alone. When we remember that the sector links closely to other industries like food processing and transport, the value of agriculture is clear."
With just over 12% of the agricultural land in South Africa, the Western Cape generates nearly a quarter of the total national agricultural income, and agriculture accounts for almost 14% of total employment in the province.
"Fruit farming is the most important agricultural activity in the Western Cape," said the Premier, "In 2001 it represented R2,4 billion, with our farmers producing more than 85% of the total South African fruit exports. We know though that there have been a number of serious challenges to this industry over the past year - especially in light of the strength of the Rand. This is why our Department of Agriculture, under the leadership of Minister Gelderblom, is currently preparing a comprehensive new report on the effects of exchange rate volatility on exports and international competitiveness. This report will be of great value in helping us to plan for these fluctuations and to set Government policies to support agriculture."
The Premier also took the opportunity to renew his praise for the health of rural relationships in most Western Cape farming communities: "The Western Cape continues to offer a model of how mutual respect and cooperation between farmers and farm workers brings the best levels of success in agriculture. To strengthen the long-term sustainability of our rural communities, the Western Cape Government, in partnership with the National Government will continue to speed-up land reform projects in these areas. In the Overberg alone we have implemented 39 projects since 2001 to a value of more than R8,4 million."
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