Minister for Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries Media Briefing before Budget Speech


12 Apr 2010

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries briefed the media before the Department's budget vote.


Journalist: What sparked the increased safety measures in rural areas? Is it limited to cross border movement and stock theft or are there other reasons?

Journalist:  It took three years to get everyone to reach consensus on the Agri BEE Charter and now the Department is looking again at entry levels. How long do you think this process will take?

Journalist: Are you worried about the climate in the agriculture industry at the moment given the allegations flying about farm workers being maltreated, farmers being worried about their safety and coupled with that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform wanting to change the land tenure system? There seems to be lots of uncertainty. Are you worried about the climate at the moment?

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson:  Thank you very much for your questions, I appreciate not only your questions but the direction your questions are actually giving. Safety on farms is not a new phenomenon, as we have had problems with safety on farms even before the term of this Government. We have been in consultation with a number of role-players and the decision to deploy soldiers at the borders on 1 April was taken long before. The decisions go through Cabinet sub committees. The Cabinet subcommittee for Safety met and we took this discussion as a collective between Agriculture, Ministry of Police as well as Military, Veterans and Defence. We are concerned that there are a number of illegal goods entering our country at cheap prices, compromising our sanitary and phytosanitary standards. We also would like to ensure that we maintain our WTO status as being a disease free country, free of foot and mouth disease and other occasions of disease. Stock theft has become one of the largest problems along the borders of Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The losses which we experience through stock theft is quiet astronomical and hence we have included stock theft as a priority safety mechanism for our farmers. These are areas which farmers have identified with us. These are not our decisions; they have requested intervention in these areas.

Safety on farms is not a new phenomenon. What I believe is that we are in a period in our country where the issue of safety is being highlighted and we are very grateful for this. For the first time it is central on the agenda of the country and we are debating issues of racism on farms, farm worker conditions, basic conditions of service as well as the relationships which exist between farmers and farm workers. We have already engaged in a series of meetings where we are preparing for a farm worker summit. We had these summits in the Provinces of North West and the Western Cape. So these farm worker summits have already been there and they are happening as a build up to the National Farm Worker Summit which will happen in August. We do not respond to matters in an adhoc fashion, we have prepared these farm worker summits and they include a discussion on the safety on farms as a priority.

The Agri BEE Charter has not stipulated any quotas or any targets for BEE. Our intention is to ensure that Agri BEE targets are legislated and that we agree upon them. The emphasis is more on the BEE targets so that in agriculture we can also have joint shareholding and joint ventures regarding owners of land. We believe that it could be one opportunity to break the impasse which we currently have where farm owners do not want their land to be nationalised and the Government does not have enough money to procure farms. We have a deadlock and we believe as Agriculture that we need a deadlock breaking mechanism and that through joint ventures as well as shareholding agreements we could we could take the first step towards joint shareholding and joint ownership of land. The climate issues has highlighted that there is the need for us to transform the sector. From day one we have indicated that Agriculture is a sector which has not been transformed and that we need to rid the sector of all elements of racism, sexism and non-democratic practices. It is also a sector where workers are not unionized and it is our experience that where workers are not unionized they cannot bargain or negotiate for inflation related salaries. Yes, farmers do pay farm workers a minimum wage and there are still many farmers who do not pay their workers a minimum wage. But, we are asking ourselves if a minimum wage is a sufficient or if we should now start negotiating inflation related increases in salaries. We are discussing this with COSATU and other unions such as the National African Farmer’s Union (NAFU), TAU and Agri South Africa.

We work very closely with Land Reform because we understand that any statement made by Land Reform has a direct impact on agriculture. So we work in a cluster called the Economic Cluster in which we do develop collective programs and joined initiatives to stimulate the rural economy. Agriculture, Agro processing and Agri business happens to be one element of rural economies. Agriculture has the potential to stimulate rural economies and that is why we must get it right. We have no choice but to transform the sector. Sixteen years into our democracy we cannot accept the fact that this sector has hardly been transformed. So we are not overly concerned. It is nothing unusual, it has been there, the matters have just been brought to the surface and we appreciate that it is now being brought to the surface and it is no longer hidden.

Journalist: Almost a year into your tenure, how well are you working with organised agricultural unions? Do you have a good working relationship with them and what is your opinion on their willingness to help transform the sector? How do you see the path forward?

Journalist: You mentioned Wal-Mart being involved in a supermarket. It is my impression that Wal-Mart is an American firm and doesn’t have a presence in the UK. Could you confirm that it does, as I am sure that it does not.

Journalist: Are we going back to the commando system? When you say you are not happy with transformation as it is at the moment, do you have a definite plan to turn things around and do you have deadlines for transformation to fast track transformation in the sector?

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: We work very well with commercial agriculture as well as organised agricultural sector. We share information, we work on strategic projects, we share strategic projects, we differ and we agree to disagree. We however, have sound working relationships with Agri South Africa, TAU as well as NAFU. What we are intending to do and what we have done over the past year would not have been possible if we did not have the support of Agri South Africa in particular. We meet regularly, we meet once a quarter but we do have meetings with commodity groups like Grain South Africa, the sugar industry, so their commodity groups are meeting with us on a regular basis as well. The umbrella bodies meet with us, and are continuously debating with us on various platforms. We also have regular telephonic contact. It may sound strange, but we do talk. I think we would not have been able to do a number of things without them.

Wal-Mart is an American firm. I think the statement does not state it very clearly so I apologise for that. The idea was that they would place their goods in the US as well as in their stores in the UK.
No, we are not going back to a commando system. We simply believe that we cannot afford porous borders because where we have had porous borders in Zambia, and in other parts of our continent, the capacity for importing and exporting goods were compromised. We cannot compromise our status as a sound exporter of basic goods as well as sophisticated agricultural goods. The economy of agriculture depends on us managing our borders more effectively.

The transformation agenda of the Department is what we have spelt out today. We have seven critical areas which we are highlighting for transformation. They include transforming our administration, and making sure that economic development, markets and trade are accessible and available to all farmers. We believe that without market access we would not be able to transform the sector, especially the smallholder sector. We would not be able to intervene in the sector and allow them to graduate into commercial farmers.

Our third area of importance is food security and agrarian reform, fisheries management, and forestry production. We are reviewing all our legislation in all our Acts, policy planning and evaluation. Our Acts will be more developmental in nature and will intervene in the developing sector of agriculture. Lastly, agriculture production, health and food safety as well as access to finance are our critically important area. I hope that answers your question. Yes, we do have deadlines for interventions like the mechanisation of agriculture. The mechanisation process will be completed by the end of the year and that would be the first phase of mechanising agriculture, buying implements and equipments. The first phase would end by December, and all 9 Provinces would have the unfolding and roll out of tractors, seeds, fertilisers. Next year, we will take a second set of priorities. We also developed our sector plan that will be completed by July. It is a plan which has been consulted vigorously and we are also working with Public Works to address fencing and boreholes on our farms.

Journalist: How much money will be allocated to the fisheries and forestry (talking off the mic)…

Journalist: In terms of the R6 billion Nedbank fund that you talked about, a couple of weeks ago Old Mutual and Future Growth spoke about a R6bn fund which was going to be split between South Africa and the rest of the continent. R3 billion would be given to South Africa and R3bn to the rest of the continent. Are we talking about the same fund? How will Nedbank fit into that? On the Wal-Mart issue, our understanding is there are no Wal-Mart stores in the UK. Is it just in the US stores that the South African smallholders’ goods would be put into?

Journalist: We have not been able to pinpoint the division between your Department and Environmental Department when it comes to marine and coastal management. Could you tell us what parts will fall under you? I would imagine the rest would be environment. Will you be setting the quotas? Will the research people come under you and will you be doing compliance? Will the abalone industry be opened because as far as I know the research from the scientists said there is not enough for it to be opened? And finally regarding Blue Fin Tuna, I am told that in South Africa the marine and coastal management division went to visit Japan recently in order to set up some business with Japan and during that time they cancelled those contracts with Japan. Can you confirm that this is happening and can you confirm that Japan is re-entering as a company with running boats that are solely Japanese owned?

Minister: I will ask the Acting DG to start the responses.

Journalist: You said there were many farmers who do not pay minimum wage. Could you put some figures on that please - either a percentage of the total of an absolute figure? You also mentioned that there was a huge new demand for boreholes. How big is that demand?  

Peter Thabethe: I will just deal with the question of Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart is a US company. It is a reputable company in the US, and we are going to work with them to assist us to create a market in the US. Since they are a reputable company in the US, we will use their capacity and strength for us to be able to do a similar process in the UK so that we are able to access the market there. So it’s not that they are having an existence in the UK, but we will use their capacity for us to be able to use the UK for a similar process once we have done all the required work.

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: Thanks for clarifying the matter DG. The fisheries function was previously entirely with Environmental Affairs, and up until the 1st of April the entire function was vested with Environmental Affairs. For the sake of division of revenue we disaggregated the budget so 82% of MCM was transferred to Agriculture as from 1 April this year. The remaining 18% includes the environmental function as well as research. The remaining 18% of the function will be transferred to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries by the end of May. This is a statement and announcement which was made by the President and the Presidency is preparing a proclamation in this regard. The entire function will come to Agriculture.

Could I also ask the Acting DG to deal with the Old Mutual and Nedbank matter? You have also asked about opening the abalone trade in the abalone industry. Yes we do have scientists who have the belief that we should not open the abalone industry. We do have scientists who believe that if we reduce poaching we would be able to open the industry. The Government of the Netherlands is also assisting the anti-poaching drive. We believe that if we could substantially decrease poaching we would have the basis or the foundation for allocation of abalone rights to the fishing communities. The farm workers summit in North West and Western Cape are beginning to open information and give us better access to information. Whilst we have small pockets of this information the incidences are not isolated, so once we have completed all our farm worker summits we would be able to have a perspective. In the mean time we are also doing an audit of all farm workers and all farms. By the time we go to our national farm workers summit we will have a better picture of what is happening on our farms, especially towards our farm workers. The group remains vulnerable and it is our responsibility as a state to intervene in their lives.

Peter Thabethe: I will respond to the issue of Nedbank and Old Mutual. Nedbank has provided a private fund to be drawn and utilized by private investors who wants to capitalise on agriculture. The total amount is R6 billion. They want us to work with them to use R3bn in Africa and the other R3bn in South Africa. So, the R6bn will be divided in half for private investors to grow the economy in agriculture. We are working out a plan on how to deal with the situation so that we maximize the benefit of the money that was made available. Old Mutual has made R10 million available. This is an initiative to provide support to subsistence and smallholder farmers in the form of production input such as seeds, fertilizers and other basic inputs that we can provide to those farmers so that they are in a position to begin to participate given the challenges that they are having in terms of maximising profits. So this is the support that Old Mutual is going to be giving.

Journalist: Sorry DG that is not what I was talking about. A couple of weeks ago Old Mutual and Future Growth announced they were setting up a R6 billion fund as well and they were saying half the money was for South Africa and half for Africa. I assume it is the same fund, as I doubt there will be two R6 billion funds. It must be the same fund. But, if Nedbank is going to be the administrator of the fund then how does that work with Future Growth and Old Mutual?

Peter Thabethe: Old Mutual is going to be the administrator but they are saying R10m will be utilised for this specific purpose and for that purpose we are saying we are going to provide that kind of support. But, we are sitting with them, we are going to finalise the agreement and will be in a position to say this is how we are going to work with them in finalizing and going forward in terms of this funding.

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: I have the question of the demand for boreholes. The Western Cape and Eastern Cape have been struck with very severe instances of drought. As part of Disaster Management and Drought Relief we are intensifying our delivery of boreholes and assistance for alternative means of water in those two provinces. It is a function which was well advanced in other dry provinces. We will still continue with the more dry provinces like Northern Cape and Limpopo but the emphasis is also to include Western Cape and Eastern Cape now, which have been hit by drought.

Journalist: (speaking off the mic)

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: I have indicated to you that we do not have absolute figures but that the farm worker summits will assist us in conciliating this information. Once we have completed all our farm worker summits and our audit is complete, we will be able to give you better figures. We are not in the business of guessing so I would not like to guess.

Journalist: (speaking off the mic)

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: Because we have had incidences in the North West, we have had our farm worker summits in the North West. We have farm workers who have complained abut the problem of the wages and similar problems have been reported to us from the Western Cape. Once we have the details we will make it available to the province and to the MEC’s. I am not trying to evade the question concerning Japan. Yes, we sent a group of officials to Japan, they did some training as well as studying of the industry and there is no agreement on any fisheries with Japan. We do not have any draft Memorandum of Understanding. No such agreements exist and we haven’t entered into any negotiations yet. If we are invited to study models and mechanisms we send our people to study the different models. We have sent people to China and Cuba. We are sending our vets to Cuba and we are working with a number of other countries. We do not; however, have a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan so it would be premature to say anything would be developing from the visit.

Journalist: Most of the game farming happens on mixed farms where there is produce as well as game. So, why does it resort under Minister van Schalkwyk?

Journalist: I see in the media statement that the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) once again received a large chunk of the budget, but some research done by UWC suggested that these funds don’t really reach the people that it is supposed to. Also there are problems with the distribution of funds, as 80% of the funds will go to 5% of farmers and then 80% of farmers would receive little to no help. Is there any new policy or implementation plans to make sure that the spread of the funds will be more equal? It seems like the tractors are now going to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga while the direst need for them and the greater concentration of small scale farmers is actually in the Eastern Cape. Moneywise, the Research and Development (R&D) groups like the ARC and OBP have complained more than once to Parliament that they are in dire need of funds, as buildings are falling apart and they do not have enough money to perform basic functions. Will the Department allow them to receive anymore funds from the budget? Has there been any additional allocations made to these groups?

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: I will ask Mr Langa to answer the question on the distribution of funds.

Peter Thabethe: The CASP conditional grant is a grant that we provide to the provinces on the basis of plans that have been approved and submitted to national Department. They develop these plans and submit them to the Department. We have realised in the past that the money becomes too thin on the ground and you do not see exactly what is happening if you split it into very small projects in the provinces. We are in the process together with the provinces in developing what we call a One Stop Shop. It is not only CASP, it is also the Land Care Funds, Agri BEE Funds and we have the Ilema/Letsema campaign. All these funds were managed separately and we want to pull all those funds together into a one stop shop. From there those funds will be distributed to the farmers so that it will make a meaningful impact. That is the process we are engaging on now. On the question of OBP and the ARC, we want to check up on their mandate. So, we are also reviewing the policies together with the funding to check that they have money for support in terms of research and production of vaccines in the country, especially in the case of OBP. We want to ensure that we are safe on all sides, so this review will cover a number of areas, including the funding that we are providing to this Government owned enterprises.

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: You would appreciate that with small pockets of funding situated in different programs, it makes it increasingly difficult for smallholder farmers to access the money. So, instead of having a small amount of money with the Ilema/Letsema campaign fund, there are many different funds with different names and different types of criteria that need to be met. We have made it too complicated for people to gain access to funding. Through the One Stop Shop we envisage a simplified mechanism for the release and distribution of the money. This ensured that there was better monitoring of the money. We have also appointed Ms Elder. I will ask her to give an impression of the fund that she is now managing. We do recognise other provinces as I said to you. Mpumalanga and KZN would be the first provinces to receive attention. We are unfolding the mechanisation programme in the Eastern Cape and the North West as well. By the end of the year we would have covered all provinces.

Ms Ntesa(sic):  Yes, the Minister and the DG are correct. We looked at the current funding that is available in the Department and it was scattered all over creating difficulty for small farmers and farmers in general to access these funds. As they put it in the Northern Cape, they were doing “bietjie bietjie here and bietjie daar” and there was really no resounding impact of what these funds are doing. So, the process that we are currently embarking on is to pull all these funds together. We have already engaged the provinces who are excited with the process and we have spoken informally to some members of the organised agriculture sector who are also excited with the new approach. So, what is really going to unfold is a One Stop Shop, which will be driven within the Department for accessing funds. The Minister has spoken about the equity funds as well as small farmers accessing funds for production, so all those other areas will be looked at by these funds. Also there were areas where people are beneficiaries of land settlements and they do not necessarily have the funds to manage those farms. The fund will also be looking at that. We are really hoping that it would have a better impact. We hope to report that it has reached the beneficiaries that it was intended for and it has been used for the purposes that it was aimed for.

Langa Zeda(sic): In terms of the issue of the game farms, I am not so sure about your facts that game farms also have agriculture in them. I think the bulk of game farms are game farms; they are for tourist purposes etc. As a result of that, they are principally there for overseeing by the Department of Environmental Affairs. They are not being used for agricultural purposes. Where we do interact with them is when people are applying for land that is used for agriculture and want it to use for gaming. We have oversight and final say on that one. That is the only role that we play with regard to game farms.

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson: We do not approve very readily the applications of farmers to convert prime agricultural land into game farms or for any other alternative purposes. Our intention is to keep prime agricultural land for the sole purpose of agriculture production. We need to ensure that we promote and sustain and protect food security in our country. That is our responsibility when it comes to game farms. As Mr Zeda has said, the commercials part of it as well as the tourism part of it such as the hospitality industry is the Government’s intervention mechanism to ensure that game farms actually increase their capacity to accommodate more tourists. It is a wonderful revenue generation ability. Ours is to ensure that where they do have mixed farming they keep cattle in separate areas and that they do not then transmit diseases from game to livestock. We have had incidences where disease and anthrax was transferred from game farms to livestock. A study has been commissioned by Treasury on the ARC and the Treasury as well as Public Works would be deciding on the amount for the recapitalization of ARC as well as OBP. We do acknowledge that we have not spent enough on research and development over the past fifteen years so we will change that.



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