Agriculture rooting to grow

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson is upbeat her department can create about 90 000 jobs a year over the next ten years if provinces submit at least 140 project plans for job creation projects. 

Joemat-Pettersson said the provinces’ plans could create 30 000 permanent and  60 000 temporary jobs per year – all part of the department’s provincial job creation projects.   

Statistics SA says the agricultural sector has been experiencing increasing job losses and employment has declined at an average of about 5 per cent per quarter – leaving a total of 598 000 jobs in agriculture by June. But, the Minister believes that by improving the competitiveness of the commercial sector and supporting smallholders to become commercially viable, South Africa might overcome the challenges of an increasingly concentrated sector and an increasingly competitive global market. 

She points out that her department’s Smallholder Development Support Programme and the Zero Hunger Programme are longer term programmes, aimed at developing markets and comprehensive farmer support. 

In products with a negative trade balance, such as processed agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Joemat-Pettersson says her department is hard at work devising an import substitution strategy. It aims to provide incentives that would encourage local processing of both agricultural and forestry products. 

And in products with a positive trade balance, such as unprocessed agricultural products, which experienced a positive trade balance of R15,4 billion, they plan to diversify the market from South Africa’s current traditional markets to new dynamic markets

“This will be done through trade promotions and bilateral agreements. The strategy will further look at changing our export profile – changes in product lines going to traditional markets,” Joemat-Pettersson says.