Pretoria - South Africa spent R140bn on agriculture and ground development between 2000 and 2010, Prof Johann Kristen said on Wednesday.
"Did it relieve rural poverty? Did it increase jobs?" Kristen asked members of the Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) at its 115th anniversary in Pretoria.
"If the answer is no, then there is something drastically wrong in the design and execution of the agricultural policy in South Africa," he said.
Kristen was speaking about principles for agricultural and rural development in South Africa.
He said a sensible policy was needed for expansion and growth in the rest of the economy.
The country's agriculture policy could relieve rural poverty and provide food to communities. It was the main source of growth and income in rural areas, and bad growth and policies caused loss of labour.
"Therefore a good agricultural policy is crucial."
He said the National Planning Commission (NPC) had placed agriculture in the foreground, which gave him a more "upbeat" feel about agriculture.
The NPC's optimism in agriculture suggested, among other things, sensible and effective spending of state funds, effective functioning of national and provincial governments, and a good partnership between commercial farmers and agri-business.
"Agriculture was influenced by policy and legislature outside of agriculture," Kristen said.
He said the main task of agricultural policy was to better the functioning of all markets in rural areas.
He said agricultural policy was not just the product of price intervention, but was a collection of government policy framework and legislation.
"Clearly, the legislature and the policy in other sectors work against the sustainability of agriculture."
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