Other initiatives included the establishment of irrigation schemes, tenant farmer support programmes and the development of the local agricultural market infrastructure and organised agricultural marketing arrangements.
Substantially increased public investment in agricultural research and development preceded industry support and continued to grow until the mid-1970s.
By the early 1990s, however, all subsidy support to farmers was phased out.
This had two unfortunate consequences. First, farmers who could moved to larger-scale operations to benefit from economies of scale. This led to the growth of very large-scale (“mega”) farming operations.
Second, it was accompanied by the abolition of support measures, from direct subsidies to indirect market interventions, from funding of research and extension to the withdrawal of subsidies on conservation works.
The result was that “new” or “emerging” black farmers were bereft of the support services they had previously been denied.
Many attempts have been made to remedy this situation but in all instances the interventions were piecemeal and unsuccessful.
In addition, most support programmes became bureaucratic and focused on individual cases. This led to long delays in decision-making. And no broad-based impact.
Features of a new system of financial support
The support programme we envisage for new entrants into agriculture is linked to the country’s land reform programme. It is designed to support the transformation of the agricultural sector to bring about a much more diverse and representative corps of farmers in SA.
A useful starting point is to do sustainable and productive settlement of qualifying farmers and beneficiaries on land already acquired by the state through the Progressive Land Acquisition programme, whereby the state acquires farm land from willing sellers in the white farming community.
The land to be settled should be offered to potential beneficiaries by means of a notice published by the relevant district land committee in the government gazette and all major newspapers. The advertisement could already have a business plan in place if, for example, it’s known what type of farming enterprise would be pursued. Where there is no business plan, the applicant needs to provide one.
All interested individuals would need to comply with certain criteria that would be used in the selection process. The minimum requirements (in addition to the existing policy of beneficiary selection) would include:
Being at least 18 years old, but younger than 50.
Having qualifications and experience suitable for productive use of the land.
Preference for beneficiaries who farmed before or who have worked on commercial farms.
Intending to personally occupy and work the land.
Be of good character, not guilty of or charged with any criminal offence.
Able to access sufficient operational capital to develop and work the holding.
Selection would need to be objective and protected from political influence or patronage.