Agriculture can be even more indispensable

20 April 2022 Agility Agri
Dr Kobus Laubscher, Consultant to Agility Agri

Dr Kobus Laubscher, Consultant to Agility Agri

Industry’s mettle proved in state of disaster, so what’s next?

As the national state of disaster ends, the achievements of the agricultural and related industries over the last two years in maintaining food security and even producing bumper crops – amid the strangest of times – deserve to be acknowledged. With the political goodwill earned in those uncertain days of the pandemic, now the industry must carve out its role in sowing the seeds for South Africa’s future, writes agricultural economist Dr Kobus Laubscher, consultant to Agility Agri.

So, what now for agriculture? It goes without saying that we struggle on with many of the same pre-pandemic growth-limiting factors of aging or insufficient infrastructure, such as the burden of costs farmers face transporting their produce on deteriorating roads highlighted in a recent AgriSA study1. However, now we have an understanding of what the private sector’s new relationship with the State could be, and we must start laying the groundwork for where this partnership should lead us in the decades ahead.

Agriculture has recently been reevaluated as a catalyst of economic development, an important label that is well deserved, but industry leaders cannot take for granted that government will necessarily follow through with the policy and resource allocation now that the industry has demonstrated what we can contribute.

Having played our part keeping food supplies strong during the pandemic, we sorely need the State to cut the red tape and for departments to work together to achieve a supportive policy environment for growth. There is no time for the inefficiencies of a silo-based approach, we need synchronization of policy in the best interests of inclusive economic development, and we can work more closely with the State to help achieve this.

From our side, it is important to pursue opportunities to make the agricultural value chain even more indispensable to the nation to reinforce its negotiating power. What can we do to fill the gaps now, and define what will be expected from those in agriculture going forward in this new collaborative dispensation?

Post pandemic, we are going to have to up our game to be competitive and make the most productive use of the land possible, and this goes hand in hand with ensuring the wellbeing of the workforce and making jobs in rural areas more attractive. Some additional support is however needed, at least as a stopgap in areas where the State is not yet capacitated to provide effective public services.

Employers of sustainable organisations have seen the value in building the kinds of employee benefits that extend health and financial wellbeing to everyone they rely on to optimise productivity.

While there are many options when it comes to employee benefits, not all are created equal. Few are equipped to provide fully for the specific needs of the agricultural and related industries, and the diverse requirements of individual operations and their workforce at all employment levels, including the Agricultural Company’s CEO or the farmer.

Agility Agri’s integrated service offering provides a complete health and financial wellness solution that comprises medical scheme, gap and co-pay cover, health savings, employee rewards, wellbeing and benefits, with a convenient single point of contact and integrated service offering.

Agricultural employers see the return on investment in improved productivity when team members are motivated with quality benefits and empowered to take better care of their health with access to private healthcare support when needed. The integrated approach ensures human capital risk is effectively managed with no duplication of cover while saving on administration costs.

As technology is playing an increasing role in maximising productivity throughout farms, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and the entire agricultural value chain, we will need to invest in people and build their capacity for the needs of the ‘new workplace’. Recruiting the right people, training them to keep pace with advancements and keeping these valued employees loyal and optimally productive is key.

It is no longer a case of employee benefits being a ‘nice to have’ offered to management only, we need to aggressively empower the sector and insist on providing support for all staff. The tools provided by Agility Agri complement what a farming or related agricultural enterprise needs to work effectively in this new dispensation and contribute meaningfully to value creation for all.

This would put the industry in a better position to take on policies that are inconducive to development, and to come to the table in readjusting those policies as partners to the State bringing the benefit of the industry’s vast experience and a demonstrated history of the contribution we can make.

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