The president’s economic recovery plan comes at a peculiar time as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cripple many industries. South Africa’s already ailing economy has not been spared the bruising and battering that COVID-19 continues to inflict on all sectors. Over two million jobs have been lost. Moreover, Stats SA has reported an annualised GDP contraction of 51% in the second quarter.

Significantly weakened economic growth prospects, declining business and consumer confidence trends, as well as growing levels of unemployment and inequality necessitates the speedy implementation of an economic recovery plan. This plan should aim to ignite the economy, reduce debt levels and grow employment.

To this end, Agri SA welcomes the president’s announcement of the most recent economic recovery plan. We believe the environment is well resourced with a strong policy framework foundation in the form of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the report by the presidential advisory panel on land reform and agriculture.

Implementing the economic recovery plan

Inefficiencies in terms of implementation and poor co-ordination between stakeholders have stymied the NDP’s roll-out. Implementation of the NDP remains a massive challenge. If this problem is not addressed, it is a serious challenge to achieve the outcomes outlined in the economic recovery plan the president announced.

“We believe that the agricultural sector will lead the way in resetting the economy. Farmer development, rural safety and market access, key drivers for this objective, must therefore be prioritised. In as much as the plan highlights key challenges faced by the industry, the plan is still quite thin on key details as to how these challenges will be addressed and the timelines thereof.

“The challenges include the availability of cheap capital, land rights, tenure security, water rights and corruption, which must be addressed urgently,” said Nicol Jansen, chairperson of Agri SA’s Economics and Trade Centre of Excellence.

According to Agri SA, growing the South African agricultural sector means that the existing expertise and knowledge in the sector must be leveraged. All of this will be futile if the levers at government level are not utilised effectively.

Unlocking the industry’s untapped potential

Agri SA looks forward to the minister of finance’s upcoming Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. The focus should be to capacitate key state-owned enterprises such as the Land Bank, South African Revenue Service (SARS) and Eskom. Furthermore, investment in key infrastructure such as ports, roads, railways and dams, which are also crucial to the agricultural sector, should be prioritised.

There is an opportunity to unlock the untapped potential within the agricultural sector and climate conditions are favourable. That said, with effective and speedy implementation of the economic recovery plan in partnership with the private sector, agriculture will pave the way for economic recovery and job creation. – Press release, Agri SA