Bangladesh food

ICYMI: These discussions on agricultural policies will dominate 2022

The likelihood of the Mzansi Agriculture Master Plan being launched in the first half of this year is high. According to the chief economist of the Chamber of Agricultural Affairs of South Africa (Agbiz), Wandile Sihlobo, this means that discussions on the political process will dominate for most of 2022.

In its weekly bulletin, Sihlobo underlined that the success of the implementation depends on the adhesion of all the social partners.

While the agriculture and agribusiness master plan process has mostly been discussed at the national level, the real work will be in how implementation is carried out at the provincial and municipal level.

“The priority for the government should be to ensure that these local structures have a similar understanding of the distribution of responsibilities and the vigor to be implemented as the national department, which led the discussions with the social partners”, warned Sihlobo.

According to the economist, this is particularly important given the dysfunctional state in which municipalities in South Africa find themselves, a dysfunction he believed was on the increase. This, however, adds a financial burden to agribusinesses in some cities that have taken on public responsibilities such as road maintenance and water supply.

Trade is also high on the agricultural policy agenda

In addition to this, the debate on improving local governance could also be important in political spaces, predicted Sihlobo.

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Indeed, many experts believe that local government inefficiencies pose a risk to agribusiness, wider agriculture and other sectors of the economy and are therefore seen as a key area to watch this year. .

“It also fits well with the poor road infrastructure, which places an additional burden on agribusinesses, as some products are highly dependent on roads. Take the grains and oilseeds industry. In this sub-sector, around 80% of products are transported by road,” Sihlobo said.

On the commercial side, for South African agriculture and agribusiness, the main objective is to open export markets to various countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Japan and Saudi Arabia, among others, pointed out Sihlobo.

According to him, the balance for South African policymakers will be to try to expand the export market while focusing domestically on localization policy.

“Other countries that want reciprocity might find the South African approach less friendly,” he warned. “This trade policy will likely be linked to logistical challenges, particularly rail and port efficiency.”

The government could increase the security focus on vandalism that occurs in Transnet infrastructure, Sihlobo believes.

“But collaboration with businesses in port facilities will most likely remain an important focus this year, as Transnet has already signaled its openness to such discussions.”

Land reform talks continue

The big agricultural policy debate, of course, is the land reform discussion that will remain part of the political discussion this year, Sihlobo wrote.

First, the Agency for Agrarian Reform and Agricultural Development could be launched during the first semester. This is another crucial area where the private sector may need to collaborate with the government for implementation, Sihlobo said.

Second, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will hold its policy conference this year.

“One of the contentious issues that emerged from the last conference was the adoption of a political resolution of land expropriation without compensation, with specific qualifications, such as ensuring that the policy does not adversely affect the economy and food security during its implementation”.

The ANC is likely to revisit this discussion at its policy conference later this year after failing to amend the Constitution to expressly allow land expropriation without compensation. The failed result was widely celebrated.

Sihlobo thinks the outcome of this policy conference is worth watching as it will have implications for the agricultural sector and agribusinesses beyond this year.

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