Agriculture plan key to job creation

Johannesburg – The Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) has urged the government to draft its agriculture sector localisation strategy to boost local production in employment-intensive subsectors in order to create jobs.

The Cyril Ramaphosa administration is currently drafting its localisation strategy as part of various measures underpinning the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan from the destruction caused by the global pandemic.

The business chamber has listed rice, poultry, wheat, alcohol, sugarcane, palm oil, beer from malt, protein concentrates, sunflower oil and unspecified animal foods as being on the top 10 import list.

Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo said while the list might draw the attention of policymakers, or even persuade them to explore ways of reducing imports in this category, this is not where the attention should be.

“The focus should rather be on relatively small and niche value chains in which South Africa might have capabilities of improving domestic production. As an example, the top 10 imports list comprises some products that South Africa does not have a conducive climate to increase its production,” said Sihlobo.

“Such products are palm oil, wheat and rice, which account for 18% of overall agriculture, food and beverages import bill of $6.5 billion [R98.8-billion]. With that said, there could be an improvement in the medium to long term in reducing the imports of poultry products, sunflower oil, sugar cane and animal foods through improvements in domestic production.”

General partner at Kingson Ross Jenvey said agriculture is one of the few sectors that is performing well and one of the fastest-growing sectors, yet not many venture capitalists are investing in this sector.

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