Tri Annual Agricultural Summit Summary
members of the press,
We have come to the end of our fist Tri Annual Agricultural Summit. I want to congratulate you on a very successful event. I want to thank each and every one who made the effort to be present and participate during the past two days.
I think that all the important role players of the Western Cape agricultural sector were represented here at the Summit. I am therefore of the opinion that the Summit was a true reflection of where we are, but also of where we want to go.
Friends, South Africa is currently going through a very difficult phase in its history. There is a growing sense of unhappiness and resentment amongst the poor in our society. Service delivery protests and illegal strike action is increasing but also becoming more violent. People are unhappy about the changes they hoped our new democracy will bring them. Workers are disillusioned. The cost of living is rising. Unemployment is increasing.
The agricultural sector has a huge responsibility in playing its part in turning the ship named South Africa, away from the rocks it is currently steering towards. Agriculture is the sector in our economy that creates the most jobs for each R1 million invested: We create 11 jobs, whereas the second sector, retail, only creates 3 opportunities. The National Development Plan states that agriculture can create 1 million new jobs in South Africa.
With this as a background, I want to return to our Summit.
I am pleased to note that my Department’s strategic goals are in line with the sector’s needs. Allow me to review them:
- We want to increase production with 10% over the next ten years. I would like to add a challenge to our commodity organisations in this regard: If we can see to increased production; can we also see to a focused drive to increase our value adding activities? Value adding creates additional jobs in our economy, and even though these jobs are not counted as agricultural jobs, it is ultimately to the benefit of our country.
- We need to maintain, or increase, our export profile. The world is changing, and the Far East and Africa are increasingly becoming new trade partners for us. The Summit saw much emphasis being placed on the potential of untapped African markets for our agricultural produce. To that I want to add our agricultural knowledge and skills. We should not only export products; we must also export knowledge and skills into Africa.
I have decided to organise an Africa Information day in this regard. We will invite African business analysts; successful business entrepreneurs, and relevant government officials to present to us the possibilities of the African Continent.
- We need to secure a 60% success rate for our new and empowerment farmers. This target might seem low, but in the National context, it is very ambitious (Between 5% and 10%). I want to recommit myself and my Department to our commodity approach in this regard. Thank you to all the individuals involved. As we progress on this journey, difficult choices will have to be made. I will support decisions made with the end goals in mind.
- We need to create the enabling environment for business to invest in our rural areas. Friends, it is true that the best intentions can be destroyed by red tape. Government is infamous for the amounts of red tape it can create. With Rural Development, we have to work through the red tape of three spheres of government, and I am aware of the challenges and frustrations this entails. I am serious about rural development, and the Western Cape Government is serious about reducing red tape as far as it is within our control.
Friends: We need to make sure our sector’s leadership is in a healthy state. This includes the training of our young leaders for the roles they have to fulfil in the future. This is the joint responsibility of government and the private sector.
This summit also generated a lot of debate on the role of agriculture as a strategic partner in protecting our natural environment. It is an area where more research is needed. We need to find ways in order to grow more crops while using fewer inputs. We need to manage our water resource. We have a responsibility to leave enough water in our river systems for ecological balance and health. But the recent flooding in the Eastern and Southern Cape once again demonstrated to me that we are releasing too much fresh water into the sea during times of flooding.
I want to conclude by thanking all the role players for the spirit in which this Summit took place. Thank you for your positive attitude. This felt like an agriculture Codesa, where people put their differences aside in order to focus on the well-being of the sector.
Thank you to the Organising Committee. The Summit progressed without a hitch. My last words: Let us now go and do what we said we will do. Let us not allow people to say in three years’ time that the 2012 Summit was only a talk shop.