LETTER: Agriculture in a pothole
Poor state of SA roads destroys government’s lofty talk of agricultural development, job creation and agri-tourism
Despite various challenges relating to trade and animal diseases, SA’s agricultural sector has enjoyed several good seasons. However, ; the state of the country’s roads is a crucial issue; in parts of the Eastern Cape they are almost nonexistent.
In the past few days farmers in areas such as the Ncora district have struggled to receive feeds and concentrates as well as diesel supplies, which they need to keep dairy farms running amid chronic load-shedding. The roads are so bad that farmers can’t even deliver the milk to processing facilities.
We should not have such problems in a province such as the Eastern Cape, where the government speaks of its drive for agricultural development, expansion, job creation and agri-tourism. The essential ingredients for such a vision of prosperous agriculture (and agri-tourism) are proper roads and water infrastructure (energy is a separate, equally serious issue). With such poor roads, we will also struggle to see decent participation of black farmers at the commercial farming level.
I’ve focused my commentary on the Eastern Cape, but this problem applies across the country, perhaps with the exception of the Western Cape. National government bears some responsibility, but the provincial governments and municipalities must do their part in assisting with essential infrastructure maintenance to support business activity.
Department of agricultural economics, Stellenbosch University
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