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June 2018

Red tape takes longer and longer


he writing of this editorial was done on the eve of NAMPO

2018. Producers in the south planted and in the north, har-

vested. The rain had not yet fallen in the south, but the guys

were planting at great speed. Andries Theron reported as

follows the other day: 100 mm wind and 4 mm rain. I trust that

it will be quite wet by the time they read this.

In the north producers are holding their breaths because of the

possibility of frost on the crops planted late. There is also some ex-

citement about the exports of maize picking up again. The Minis-

ter of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has at last approved our

request that the traders must in future statutorily declare to SAGIS

how many ships have been reserved for exporting. The increase in

exports is also good news to the owners of grain elevators since they

have to make new plans to store the new crop on a daily basis.

I would like to touch on an issue which will be affecting our

agricultural policies in future: It takes longer and longer to get a

change in policy, or new policy, finalised. The number of role-players

who have to be consulted are increasing, the opinions are becoming

more diverse and the efficacy of implementation is declining.

This happens despite the merit of a case. Even processes of matters

where all are in agreement, take longer than usual. It reminds me

of a visit to the Agricultural Portfolio Committee in 1996, when the

draft Marketing Act was discussed. One of the committee members’

remark was that they were there to govern well – and not necessarily

effectively. Another round of consultation is more important than

immediately getting the work done and finalised. The one ‘commod-

ity’ in agriculture that annually grows more than inflation, is the num-

ber of people who have an opinion about what is best for the sector.

While the markets, climate and information require faster change

from producers, the policy wheels are turning slower. No wonder

the temperature among the different role-players is rising.

I did, however, during the land debate the other day, experience

some encouragement when one of the ruling party’s members re-

marked that there is a non-racial consensus that the civil service has

thus far sunk the land reform process. This creates a basis for dis-

cussion. Urbanisation was discussed and that the need for house

ownership was most likely more pressing than the need for farm land

with a view of farming it.

Another remark was that there must be a rational solution for land

reform, but radical enough to make progress. Although the title deed

of a house in a suburb would be a giant leap forward to restore the

human dignity of those whose land was taken from them previously,

the improvement of their economic situation must be the ultimate

goal to strive for.

We still have a long way to go, given the direction in which our edu-

cation and training institutions move. The increasing of minimum

wages is not the solution to create wealth, but rather the improve-

ment of skills that exploit the opportunity in the free market to create

economic wealth.

I was also encouraged by the quality of the people (although I some-

times differ with their points of view) who concern themselves with

the issue of property rights. They are not necessarily agrarians, but

professional individuals who wish to make a difference at a place in

time that the country desperately needs it.

Grain SA also wishes to bid farewell to Schalk Pienaar. He made his

mark in agriculture. We are definitely going to miss his composure

in difficult situations, but also his ability to distinguish between

the chaff and the wheat. His years of experience at the highest

levels of agricultural leadership will leave a definite void. Farewell,