By Ebi Kesiena
New rules implemented by South Africa’s Department of Agriculture have come under fire from the country’s farmers, who criticize the regulations for tying export permits to the racial composition of agricultural businesses.
Published on November 1, the new rules apply to businesses making more than 10 million rand ($535,000) per year who are applying for permits to export produce to the United Kingdom and European Union. They’re based on a set of standards from the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act enacted in 2003. The regulations apply to products such as milk, butter, fruit, nuts, sugar and wine.
Reacting to the new rules on Monday, Head of a South African agricultural organization in Pretoria called Saai, Dr. Theo de Jager, stressed that the rules could hinder farmers’ ability to compete internationally.
“How does one apply [black economic empowerment] to a family farm? It can be hard enough for a father and son, or cousins, to farm together, let alone have an outside partner forced on your farm,” he told the outlet. De Jager said the rules are a move by the government to “shift the responsibility for [the country’s racial equity] transformation onto farmers because its own attempts at land reform have failed for the past 25 years,” he queried.
De Jager suggested that the government’s move reflects an attempt to shift responsibility for the country’s racial equity transformation onto farmers due to the perceived failure of its land reform efforts over the past 25 years.
As of 2017, white farmers owned 73% of South African farmland, according to a report cited by News24.
However, in two fertile provinces, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, Black farmers owned over half of the farmland.
South Africa’s agricultural exports, contributing about 240 billion rand ($12.8 billion) annually, approximately a quarter directed to the EU and UK.
Broad-based Black economic empowerment rules were introduced to uplift and restore the dignity of Black South Africans post-Apartheid.
However, Noko Masipa, a Democratic Alliance spokesperson for agriculture, has also opposed the new rules, stating, “The regulations violate the rules of fair trade that underpin South Africa’s agreements with the EU and the UK, both of which are explicitly premised upon protecting human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.”