It is not a case of South Africa needing to support either small- or large-scale farming, but that both are important for the country’s development, says business organisation Agricultural Business Chamber (ABC) CEO Dr John Purchase.
Specifically, large-scale farming will provide food security and sustainable agriculture, while support for the development of small-scale farming will improve household food security, social stability and reduce the drive towards urbanisation.
Poor infrastructure in regions where small-scale farming takes place exacerbates the problem of high transaction costs, owing to the lack of economies of scale. Further, smallholders are generally disconnected from input and services markets, as well as output markets.
“However, South Africa’s well-established commercial value chains create access opportunities for small-scale producers. This will fuel a synergistic relationship that is becoming evident in South Africa, albeit at an insufficient level to improve the viability and environmental sustainability of small-scale, rural farming,” says Purchase.
Land degradation, both physical, such as soil erosion, and chemical, such as acidification, have not been observed in commercial farming areas, but are evident in subsistence farming areas. This means that smallholder producers alone cannot provide food security for the country, or farm on a sustainable basis, necessitating the support of large-scale commercial farming in conjunction with support structures for smallholders, he explains.