South Africa depends on resilient maize farmers

The pressure on commercial farmers, particularly maize farmers, has never been as intense as it is now. Most parts of South Africa, including the North West, are still counting the cost of drought and continuous unpredictability of the weather patterns.

While farmers were still trying to come to terms with the drought, they also had to contend with two other problems. One is policy uncertainty arising from the debate about expropriation of land without compensation. The other is the skyrocketing fuel prices.

The debate on land expropriation without compensation has since been formalised in heated public consultation meetings led by parliament. Hopefully it will be concluded constructively.

The skyrocketing fuel prices pose a risk to production costs, which could be passed on to consumers. There is a risk to inflation, and by extension interest rake hikes, if the fuel price hikes are sustained over a long period. With some farmers sitting with huge debts, higher interest rates could compound the challenges in the sector. 

With all these difficulties, South Africa needs resilient farmers. But as business people, farmers will have to be part of the national conversation to find solutions that will ensure that the current challenges are turned into opportunities for an inclusive, diverse, vibrant and competitive agricultural sector.

Maize farmers, who are responsible for supplying staple food for the majority of South Africans, cannot afford to sit back and not participate in a solution-driven process. Theirs are beyond the commercial interests. Food security is indeed a national imperative. Their contribution to finding solutions is indispensable.

Johan Bezuidenhout of NWK, a company that provides a range of services to maize farmers, speaks to Nation in Conversation about how farmers are managing their businesses within the challenging environment.