'Stick to your knitting'

Well done to the organisers of the Pietermaritzburg Royal show for yet another splendid event. In its 165th year, the show manages to stay true to its character while keeping up with the times.

Together with Farmer's Weekly, one of its oldest partners (well over a century), the show's annals bear testament to many a high and low of the history of South Africa's agricultural sector. Paging through the archives of Farmer's Weekly, one gets the sense that whether it was 1910 or 2010, farmers have rarely been happy with government policy.

The more prescriptive and autocratic the government, the more farmers have objected. Ruling parties through the ages have always done much the same thing to stay in power: cater to their constituents' demands. If they don't, they will soon find themselves out of a job.

Too often, land - and its ability to generate income, provide jobs and fulfil people's deep need to own something truly permanent - becomes a political plaything at the cost of a thriving agricultural sector. When academically trained public servants, or worse, politicians, start prescribing to lifelong farmers on how to farm, or interfere with the free market, it can only end in disaster.  Read more

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