While the auction system has not always been able to disburse on time, and while we have had a few miscreants who have sought to abuse it, the overarching goals for which the facility was established are beginning to be met, with remarkable impact on the economy.
Increased industrial activity will go a long way in meeting our import substitution goals; in enhancing our overall economic performance through value-added exports, and of course in creating more employment, especially for our youths.
While the auction system has created another exchange rate in the economy, thereby causing possible arbitrage, this is a matter we are looking at.
With industrial activity now well in train, we need to keep raising our sights in the direction of new targets and frontiers.
We must not be complacent; rather, we must keep moving, challenging each and all sectors to do more, and to break new ground.
One such sector we must challenge is that of Agriculture. As Government, we have sunk in huge amounts into this vital sector. Both public and private sectors have played a key role in ensuring our farmers, big and small, are supported. When we factor in related investments in water and irrigation systems, the agricultural sector has been the most preferred.
This is as it should be; we are an agricultural economy and country. Besides, our national food security and self-sufficiency is uppermost.
We must now do more. We usually say agriculture is the source of raw materials for our industry. Yet it is, or should be, much more. Because of lower entry barriers and because of our farming tradition as a people, this is one sector which enlists the participation of the majority of our people.
With the Land Reform Programme, agriculture has become a key sector for capital formation for most people and families. And because of the many value chains emerging from it, this is one sector holding many possibilities for numerous start-ups.
It is thus more than a mere source of raw materials; it is itself a site of significant capital formation, much of it investible.
There is thus a yawning gap in our agricultural ecosystem, a gap we now have to plug.
Presently, we see many trucks delivering grains to our Grain Marketing Board depots and collection points.
We see many stockpiles of grain at these collection points, with bigger stocks sealed in our silos. Part of these go towards our Strategic Reserves.
That is understandable. Yet we often hold grain far in excess of our Strategic Reserve requirements. This excess grain remains stockpiled, creating a huge opportunity cost by way of value-addition opportunities we forego, including on farms which produce the grain in the first place.
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