Today I will attend the 54th NAMPO agricultural show outside the town of Bothaville in the Northern Free State. This annual exhibition and discussion forum hosted by the National Maize Producers Organisation (NAMPO) – and which hasn’t taken place for two years due to lockdown restrictions – has become one of the most important events in our agricultural calendar. The exchange of ideas there will be critical to safeguarding our country’s food security as we head into a very bleak and uncertain winter.
This is a forum hosted by farmers, for farmers, where they have an opportunity to be exposed to new technology and equipment, exchange farming ideas and discuss the major issues facing their sector. It has grown into the biggest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere, and this year it will feature a number of international exhibitors and will attract attendees from as far afield as Namibia, Botswana and DRC. This is an indication of the critical role agriculture plays on our continent, and of the commitment by the farming community to protecting our food security.
Over the course of the day I will be meeting with farmers as well as with the management of Grain SA to listen to their concerns about the looming global and local food security crisis, and to discuss ways in which we can help mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine and the impact this war will have on the global supply of grains, oils and other produce.
Farmers in particular will feel the effects of this war as fertiliser prices are expected to spike dramatically, along with massive increases in petrol and diesel prices. These increasing operational and transport costs will translate into rapid food price inflation that will hit poor South Africans extremely hard this winter. It is therefore critical that we put every possible solution on the table that could help rein in this inflation and shield vulnerable citizens from poverty and hunger.
These solutions should include a further relief in the fuel levy, a VAT exemption on more food products – chicken and meat in particular, and dropping of the sugar tax. It should also include plans to bolster our own local production of crops such as wheat and canola oil, which is already underway in the Western Cape.
I will also be speaking to farmers about the many other issues that pose a threat to their sector, to their businesses and to their safety. This includes the erosion of property rights under the threat of Expropriation Without Compensation, the difficulty of operating a farming business amid crumbling roads and infrastructure where farmers themselves have taken to fixing roads, the impact of load-shedding, and the ongoing threat of farm attacks. I will also be visiting the Wall of Remembrance, where the victims of farm murders are honoured.
Given the severe food and fuel crisis that is about to hit South Africa, NAMPO is one of the most important events of the year. With no evident concern for this crisis coming from the ANC government, it will be up to South Africans to weather this storm despite their government, as they always have to do. Thankfully we are blessed with a farming community that is up to the task.