Tackling High Food Prices
Our agriculture sector remains one of the areas of greatest opportunity for us as a nation.
As the price of basic foods such as mealie meal, bread and fritters increase to the extent that we have many families living on just one meal a day, the discussion of how we can transform the sector by better supporting our farmers must take centre stage.
Reasons for the price increases start very early on in the process with the rising cost of inputs. For example, farmers are now paying over K300 per 50kg of fertiliser, compared to K150 just a few years ago, while livestock feed has also increased in price. Failure to invest in extension services, such as cheap and reliable veterinary care, means productivity levels are low, and the recent power sector crisis has increased cost for producers, particularly in the milling and dairy farming businesses.
Yet with vision and long-term planning we can not only end hunger within our borders, but also create thousands of jobs and revive our economy.
We will support farmers to grow more at a lower cost by supporting them with better access to markets, local and regional, and providing affordable loan financing facilities and reduced interest rates so they can acquire modern machinery and equipment to support value addition activities. In addition, investment in extension services and training programmes will help our farmers to compete across the region and protect them from cheaper imports elsewhere by making them more competitive.
With all the technological and communications advances of the 21st Century the avenues open to us for increasing the flow of important information to small-scale farmers have greatly increased and so we must renew our thinking about what is possible, as well as our attitudes towards agriculture more broadly.
As outputs grow and prices lower, the opportunities for value-addition and the export of value-added products from mealie meal to cereals, tomato paste and tinned fish, must be grasped. This is how we will deliver job opportunities and foreign exchange earnings that support a healthy economy. Through diversification we will protect and secure this future.
In the UPND we remain excited about the potential for agribusiness to play a major role in uplifting the prosperity of our nation, as well as for each farmer and their dependents. That is why we consider agriculture to be a top priority in our economic plan. It can be a powerful engine of growth for our economy and our development. The window of opportunity is there but we must grab hold of it quickly and decisively.