Letter: Land policy is disastrous for food security - The Witness

1 September 2020 - It is interesting and revealing to note that the proposed recovery plan the government submitted to Nedlac – what has been publicly reported of it – lists food security as an immediate priority.

It is interesting and revealing to note that the proposed recovery plan the government submitted to Nedlac – what has been publicly reported of it – lists food security as an immediate priority.

South Africa is fortunate in that its agriculture sector has remained resilient in the face of the pandemic, despite the difficulties that the pandemic and lockdown imposed on it. The country’s food supply has been maintained.

What comes next could boost the economy or undermine the nation’s food security. Our farming economy has long presented opportunities for South Africa, not least on the export front. Vigorously pursued, there are possibilities, here, as the world enters a post-Covid recovery.

However, whether the potential is realised hinges on just how agriculture is treated in future. This issue is less whether the government commits to pouring money and subsidies into it – the funds for which barely exist – than whether it adjusts its policy approach.

Foremost is abandoning the push for expropriation without compensation (EWC), which threatens the foundation of agriculture. Our commercial farming economy has shown its value over the past few months and is an asset to be nurtured. That the government seems intent on pushing on with EWC is a sad reflection on the state of policy thinking.    

Affirming property rights should be accompanied by a prudent, rejuvenated land reform programme that focuses on generating successful farmers, with targeted support for emerging producers, and on ensuring that the conditions for a robust rural economy – infrastructure, for example – are at hand.

True, this will require resources and competent governance, but both could be found by rethinking priorities. One might start with the funds that stand to be directed at a new airline, and by professionalising the public administration.

But continuing on the current policy track risks squandering this opportunity, and much more besides.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

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