Food security on the line without 4 key interventions in the State of the Nation

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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the agricultural sector has proven to be a stellar performer for the hard-hit South African economy, reaching an annual contribution to GDP of more than R119 billion in 2020 as well as employing more than 800,000 people in 2021.

The sector’s performance has underscored the centrality of the success of farmers and farming communities to the success of the national economy. But the sector faces several challenges that threaten its future viability, and the President’s State of the Nation Address must tackle these. 

To prevent any regression in the sector’s gains, Agri SA has identified four policy areas that President Ramaphosa must address if the sector is going to continue to thrive in 2022: rural safety, access to land, access to working capital, and investment in infrastructure and technology 

 Rural safety
Rural safety is a food security imperative. Without safe farming communities, South Africa will continue to see a rapid decline in the number of farmers in the country and fail to attract new ones. And rural safety is not just about farmers. It is about workers and the community ecosystems that support food production.

Agri SA is driving an effort to develop a sector-led farming communities safety plan. But community vigilance is not enough. President Ramaphosa needs to announce implementable initiatives for government to partner with farming communities that make rural safety a national priority and ensure a food secure future for South Africa.

Access to land and security of tenure
Commercial sustainability requires legal certainty in terms of property rights, a foundational tenet of the rule of law. The key to food security, sector growth and inclusivity is better, more secure access to land – not the arbitrary deprivation of access to land. Government therefore needs to abandon expropriation without compensation and implement two key interventions for meaningful land reform without killing this vibrant sector:

Release state-owned land to South African black, female and youth entrants to the agricultural sector; and
Provide black and women entrants secure tenure on the land they farm so they can use it to access capital.

These interventions are in line with President Ramaphosa’s past SONA addresses, as well the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and its undertaking to promote gender equality and ensure economic inclusion for women and youth.  

 Financial sustainability

Covid-19’s impact on global supply chains has resulted in a drastic rise in the cost of agricultural inputs, exacerbating the impact of policies like the national minimum wage. These and other challenges make it imperative that farmers have access to working capital, a need also identified in the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.


Assets like land and transferable water rights are vital tools for farmers to access capital. Unfortunately, in addition to expropriation without compensation, government has launched an assault on the transferability of water rights. Even after its position was rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeals, government has insisted on appealing to the Constitutional Court. For the sake of the nation’s food security, farmers, and policy certainty in the sector - this appeal must be withdrawn.

 Infrastructure investment
 It is essential that the infrastructure investment envisioned in the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan moves into swift action in 2022. The entire agricultural value chain depends on workers’ ability to get to work, as well as farmers’ ability to receive their inputs, and send their produce to market. Infrastructure is therefore key to food security. 

But the escalating cost and the increasing difficulty of transporting agricultural goods is a threat to the availability, quality and especially the affordability of food – the essential pillars of food security. It is also a threat to South Africa’s agricultural exports.

Beyond the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, the President must announce near-term steps to address the degraded state of the country’s road and rail infrastructure, as well as the challenges at the nation’s harbours which are so crucial to importers, and more importantly, South African agricultural exporters.


 Announcements regarding these priorities are essential to the success of the agricultural sector, and for the successful implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.  Agri SA is committed to ensuring that the agricultural sector can continue to make a significant contribution to the national economy. The organisation and its members stand ready and willing to partner with government to ensure that we build strong agricultural value chains and promote inclusive, resilient, and sustainable farming for South Africa.