There is isn’t sufficient appreciation with the South African public and some political leaders for the important role that farmers play in the country.
This was the theme of the message Dr. Pieter Mulder, deputy minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries brought this morning at the Bloem Show in Bloemfontein to farmers and cattle farmers in particular.
Dr. Mulder, who spoke at the Santa Gertrudis section of the Show, pointed out the importance of stock-farming and said that between 1996 and 2008 it had contributed approximately 42% of the country’s gross domestic agricultural product.
Nearly 68% of South Africa’s total agricultural soil surface is used for grazing because it is not suitable for any other form of agriculture, while only 14% is classified as high potential agricultural land.
According to research of the Agricultural Research Council, 40% of cattle in South Africa are held by communal and subsistence farmers, but they only produce about 5% of South Africa’s meat.
According to Dr. Mulder, the ownership of cattle is important for political stability in rural areas, but it means that a large portion of the country’s livestock is not being used in the economy. This problem is at present being dealt with through a number of projects and it could in time contribute to poverty alleviation and the development of rural areas.
Dr. Mulder referred to the problems that cattle farmers experience and singled out the problem of having under-staffed state veterinary services, problem animals that cause damage and stock-theft. He said that government has the responsibility to increase research and technological capacity to combat animal illnesses and pests more effectively.
“The single biggest problem in agriculture at present is most likely uncertainty. Uncertainty about the future, uncertainty about ever-increasing government interference and uncertainty about land.
“The re-opening of land claims creates tremendous uncertainty and instability. Job-creation and food security will definitely be harmed by this,” Dr. Mulder said.
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