Agri Western Cape recently appointed Jannie Strydom as its new CEO. Jannie took over the reins from Carl Opperman, who retired from the organisation after 20 years, at the beginning of March.
Jannie has extensive experience as an agricultural specialist at various financial institutions. He also worked as an agricultural economist at the Department of Agriculture, was a lecturer in agricultural management at Glen College of Agriculture and, more recently, managed a USAID funded development cooperation programme for a US-based company.
AgriOrbit spoke to Jannie about agriculture in the Western Cape and what his new role will entail.
Q: What is your take on agriculture in the Western Cape?
A: The Western Cape’s agricultural sector is unique due to its diverse and exportoriented nature. Western Cape producers are responsible for more than 50% of South Africa’s agricultural produce grown for exports. Most branches export their products and earn foreign currency. Agriculture in the province has its challenges but, in contrast to our colleagues in the north, we are in the advantageous position of having the provincial department’s support.
I want to thank the Western Cape Department of Agriculture for their support of commercial producers and new entrants alike. Cooperation is outstanding and problem areas are continuously being addressed. During the tough period brought on by the drought and water crisis, it was reassuring to know that the department ensured that disaster relief went to those farmers in desperate need of assistance.
Q: How does Agri Western Cape support farmers in the province?
A: Agriculture in the Western Cape is very diverse, and Agri Western Cape represents its producers on many fronts. Our contribution is not always tangible or visible, but it plays a major role in the sustainability of agriculture in the province.
Agri Western Cape members, via their local agricultural associations, can directly influence policy and legislation at all three tiers of government. Members’ interests, inputs, comments, opinions and suggestions form the basis of Agri Western Cape’s arguments when it comes to legislation and policy negotiations.
Agri Western Cape has been particularly busy during the past few months delivering drought relief, thanks to our drought relief fund. We also actively negotiated to reduce the province’s water restrictions, with considerable benefits for irrigation farmers.
Electricity supply remains a priority and a headache. Our struggle with Eskom is ongoing and, apart from a public proposal, we also provided an information document to NERSA (at their request) on the negative impact of increased tariffs. We’re also trying to influence the scheduling of load shedding.
There are many other issues receiving attention, such as ongoing negotiations with SARS over the diesel rebate. Through our five policy committees, which deal with issues related to rural safety, labour, transformation, natural resources and commercial concerns, we are continuously addressing issues that affect our producers.
Q: What will your focus be?
A: Farmers remain our primary focus; their interests should always come first. It is our duty to lighten the burden on the producer as much as possible and ensure that the farmer, as sustainable food producer, is not harmed by certain agendas.
Agricultural associations must remain active at ground level, and we are fortunate to have dynamic and active Western Cape associations. We are excited about the participation of young farmers in organized agricultural structures, and our Young Farmer Committee serves as the perfect platform through which they can become part of such a structure.
The fourth industrial revolution brings new technology and other channels facilitating productive farming. The younger generation has a different take on the future. Our focus should therefore also be on empowering young farmers. Agriculture must remain attractive to successors.
For enquiries, contact Agri Western Cape on 021 860 3800 or visit www.growinggreatness.co.za.