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Agriculture is a cornerstone of South Africa’s economy and must be cherished

(Budget vote debate in Parliament: Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development)

Agriculture is a cornerstone of South Africa's economy. In 2020, farmers and their workers stood strong despite the Covid-19 pandemic and, thus, they demonstrated to the world that no challenge will get them down.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges, the agricultural sector continued to meet die needs of all South Africans, regardless of their race, language or creed.

Rash statements by politicians, like last week's claim by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, that the land was stolen, fuel a dangerous misconception and does not instil the farming community with confidence in the government.

The R494 million allocated in the medium term to the programme for agricultural production, biosecurity and natural resources to prevent and deal with the outbreak of various diseases is inadequate.

No financial aid was provided to farmers who, in some cases, had to slaughter all their livestock due to an outbreak of swine flu.

It is incomprehensible that no provision is made for a disaster fund or some other emergency plan to assist farmers in such difficult circumstances.

In addition, no attempt was made to provide adequate relief to those who desperately need it due to the severe drought affecting the Northern Cape as well as other parts of South Africa. The drought has caused a serious lack of pasture and other essential resources.

The FF Plus has already asked the Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza, for additional drought relief and it is time for the Minister to stand up for agriculture and its future so as to ensure food security for South Africa.

The underspending of funds allocated to the provinces for agriculture and agricultural aid places a lot of needless pressure on the sector and severely restricts growth, job creation and progress.

The safety and well-being of the farming community is of the utmost importance and must be prioritised.

The time is here to put our hand to the plough for a better South Africa.

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