Subsidies needed for black farmers

Arguments for a subsidy scheme for new black farmers have been advanced by the respected Bureau for Economic Research (BER) at Stellenbosch University.

BER director and professor in agricultural economics Prof Johann Kirsten, says that contrary to the opinion of economic purists “subsidies are theoretically justified and applied in virtually every country globally”. However, agricultural subsidies “tend to be a rich country practice”.

“In South Africa, where we’re striving to build an inclusive agricultural sector and correcting for past racial biases, subsidies to black farmers are justified.

“Most countries have programmes to help new farmers. South Africa, lacking this, sticks out like a sore thumb.”

In an article in the latest Poultry Bulletin, journal of the SA Poultry Association, Kirsten says support programmes for commercial (white) farmers ended in the 1990s, and programmes aimed at black farmers are slow, bureaucratic and without much impact.

“Unless this is changed, South African agriculture is destined to remain mostly untransformed, without hope for those smaller-scale family-farming operations whose development can do much to fuel growth and create employment.

“What is needed is for the lessons from the past to be scrutinised for the development of a new support programme with rapid and sector-wide impact. The support programme for new farmers should be linked to land reform, designed to create a more diverse and representative corps of farmers in South Africa,” Kirsten says.