Farmers ‘could become extinct in near future’

2012-09-03 16:14
Commercial farmers could become extinct in the near future, Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager has said.

“The average age of a farmer is 62 years. This means we are going to become extinct. Somehow we have missed the generation of new entrants.

“This spells danger. We need more entrants from young people,” he told the SA Agricultural Outlook conference in Pretoria.

De Jager said a study conducted by Agri SA showed that in 1994 South Africa had 120?000 farmers compared to 37,000 at present.

“We are to be blamed too. We have not made this profession sexy enough. It is not cool to be a farmer. We need to rectify this in a short space of time,” he said.

De Jager said Agri SA had already started visiting schools to educate the youth about the agricultural sector.

Young people had yet to understand that the agricultural sector involved a variety of skills in different fields including science, labour, finance and engineering.

He said the decline in the number of farmers could also be blamed on the collapse of agricultural colleges.

De Jager said young people were not going into the agricultural sector because farming had not been profitable in South Africa in recent years.

South Africa lagged behind other emerging economies in research and development in the agricultural sector because of the shortage of young people, he said.

However, De Jager said the decline in the number of farmers was a global phenomenon caused by farmers growing bigger to have the advantage of the economy of scale.

Both the government and private sector had not done enough to attract young people into farming.

De Jager said ageing farmers could not take new opportunities created by the new forms of land ownership.

He said the government should consider involving farm workers in its land reform programme, because they already had experience in farming.