Land Bank nomination process, Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries 2nd Term Performance

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

21 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) responded to Members’ outstanding questions from its previous presentation on its first quarter report. These questioned clarified the negotiations with Land Bank on the loan arrangements, and the discussion around interest rates. In respect of fisheries, it was noted that a large budget was provided for upgrading harbours, and this would be taken over from the Department of Public Works, while other plans were made to decentralise, and there were other agreements with other entities. However, it was noted that the Fisheries Branch was only established in the previous year, and a request was made for the Committee to meet separately with this branch, which the Committee agreed to. The Forestry branch noted that trees would be delivered to constituencies shortly and the selection of service provider for tractors was shortly to be finalised.

DAFF then presented its second-quarter performance report. The Department was in the process of consolidating various policies of its constituent branches. It had finalised the first draft of a stakeholder engagement strategy. 4 260 smallholders and 2 556 subsistence farmers received support through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema conditional grants, which created 4 079 jobs. A draft integrated Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) Strategy was compiled and a Smallholder Development Working Group was established to coordinate national initiatives. 1 965 smallholder producers were identified for support around the country. A trial roll-out of the Zero Hunger Programme was established in KwaZulu-Natal and a workshop was held in anticipation of national implementation. A number of policies and strategies were drafted and implemented.  Amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights Act were under review and Cabinet had approved the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Bill (2011). A draft document for coping with floods was developed and implementation of the post-disaster assistance scheme was in progress. The Integrated Fisheries Security Strategy (IFSS) was partially implemented and an amended small-scale fisheries policy was tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). The Department reported that it faced major challenges as it was still in the process of consolidating its new structure and securing a permanent senior management structure, but was working on improving its relations with stakeholders and other governmental bodies.

Members asked about the relationship with state owned entities, more information regarding the Fisheries’ branch’s operations, particularly the e-permit system, and asked why the night fishing ban had not been submitted for public comment. Members asked for more information on the response to the Foot and Mouth Disease, South Africa’s current status, whether other options could be considered to regain that status, and fencing maintenance to prevent the spread of disease.  They questioned the status of colleges and funding to them. They also queried what was being done for small enterprises, queried the apparent duplication of work on sexual harassment and gender equity, but noted the response that this was intended to cater specifically for the farming communities, and clarified that a meeting would be held with the Red Meat Industry Forum on the following day. The disaster management strategies were also discussed, as well as details around pest control and registration of animal feed. Members also questioned why the application process for land subdivision still required permission from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as they felt that this slowed progress. They asked why some land was allowed to lie fallow, the Department’s strategy for reducing food prices and at the same time improve farmers’ living conditions, and asked for details on a number of estimates and targets. Written responses would be provided on Comprehensive Agricultural Support and progress in smallholders’ programmes. Members also questioned the Department’s attitude and strategies for genetically modified foods, allocation of extension officers in the provinces and provinces’ failure to spend. A written response would also be submitted on that, and members asked for a provincial breakdown on the work done, as well as the impact in changing people’s lives. They felt that a more holistic approach was required. Members also asked for further reports on the disagreement about animal standards. A Member said he was dissatisfied with the response to issues of foot and mouth disease.

Meeting report

Board of the Land Bank: nominations
The Chairperson opened the meeting with a brief discussion on the Land Bank’s official request for nominees for its board and suggested that the Committee propose the candidates jointly with the NCOP.

Ms N Pilusa-Mososoane (ANC) raised her concern that the Land Bank was not accountable to this Committee.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC) suggested that the Committee contact the Ministry of Finance to clarify its expectations.

The Chairperson responded that the committee would send a formal request for a meeting with the Minister of Finance and for the deadline for nominations to the Board of Land Bank to be extended to the end of February 2012.

Department
of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF): Follow up on 1st Quarter 2011 performance
Dr Mono Mashaba, Chief Director of Operations, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, introduced his colleagues and said that they would firstly respond to questions outstanding from a previous presentation, around the first quarter performance of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department).

Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained that negotiations between the Department and the Land Bank were under way regarding interest rates for providing credit to farmers. The Land Bank agreed to contribute twelve rand for every one rand from the DAFF in the form of loans, but the Department felt that the Land Bank’s proposed rate of 8% was too high. The Department suggested that Land Bank charge 4%, while DAFF would provide an equal amount as a subsidy.

Ms Sue Middleton, Deputy Director General: Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, responded to outstanding questions on the Fisheries branch. The Department set aside a large budget for upgrading harbours and the Director General approved the recommendation to take over the management of harbours from the Department of Public Works in future. The Fisheries branch was also in the process of implementing its decentralisation plan to increase its presence along the coastline and had established a mobile unit to collect and distribute permit applications in the interim. The branch entered into memoranda of agreement with the Namaqualand District Municipality and the Cederburg District Municipality regarding the fish processing establishment, and the management of their respective harbours. An exploratory study on the sustainability of octopus and red bait production was under way.

In response to Members’ requests for more information on the Fisheries branch and its operations, Dr Mashaba explained that the branch was only established in the previous year and requested that the Committee should consider holding a separate session on the Fisheries branch.

The Chairperson agreed.

Dr Shibu Rampedi, Deputy Director General: Forestry Development, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, apologised to members for the branch’s failure to deliver trees to members’ constituencies and reassured the Committee that they would be delivered shortly.

Dr Mashaba reported that the selection process for the service provider for tractors would be finalised by the end of the week.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) 2nd Term performance and expenditure report.
Dr Mashaba reported that the Department was in the process of finalising and implementing a number of policies to consolidate its new structure. The communication strategy was being reviewed. DAFF had finalised the first draft of a stakeholder engagement strategy, in response to previous complaints. Guidelines for aligning the Department’s planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems with those of the provinces were almost completed.

The 852 Micro Agricultural Financial Institutional Scheme of South Africa (MAFISA) loans disbursed during the quarter were also under review. 4 260 smallholder farmers and 3 556 subsistence farmers received support through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema conditional grants. 4 079 jobs were consequently created.

The Farmer Register Project was implemented in KwaZulu-Natal and its first preliminary report would follow three months later.

A priority list of recommended proposals for research and development projects was generated in conjunction with the appropriate commissioning directorates.

In respect of the Economic Development, Trade and Marketing Programme, Dr Mashaba noted that the Heads of States launched intra-Africa trade negotiations during the Tripartite Summit that took place in South Africa from 8 to 12 June 2011. The Department anticipated that an African Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) would consolidate the country’s position in Africa and open up new export markets.

A draft integrated Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) Strategy was compiled for the sector. 18 cooperatives were registered and the Department planned to align other programmes to support them. 230 farmers were trained in marketing-related disciplines.

The Food Security and Agrarian Reform programme had managed to draft a Food Security Policy, which was tabled for intergovernmental approval. A trial roll-out of the Zero Hunger Programme was established in KwaZulu-Natal and a planning workshop for national implementation was held with the Food Bank and the Departments of Social Development, Health, Rural Development and Land Reform.

1 965 smallholder producers were identified for support, but both the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape failed to submit any data to the DAFF. A Smallholder Development Working Group was established to coordinate national targets and support in order to increase the number of smallholders.

The Department was also in the process of creating a framework for mechanisation by developing norms and standards for production technologies.

The tender process for the promulgation of agriculture training institutions Green Paper was complemented, but the output was delayed by the Bid Committee’s recommendation that DAFF re-advertise.

Draft policies for promoting gender equality and preventing and managing sexual harassment and violence were submitted for approval. DAFF planned to finalise its framework on promoting women’s development in the sector by the end of the financial year.

Dr Mashaba then turned to the Agriculture Production, Health and Food Safety Programme, noting that a number of policies, bills, regulations and strategies were being drafted and implemented. The Department found it difficult, however, to balance farmers’ demands to open up into new export markets because of the difficulty in meeting the necessary quotas. DAFF therefore planned to prioritise commodities with adequate supply chains.

Amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) Act were about to be submitted to the Minister for approval.

Ten farmers were identified to participate in an on-farm conservation project established in KwaZulu-Natal with nine targeted crops. DAFF met with the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) and was working on a document for the implementation of commodity resources, following both parties’ presentations to the Committee.

He also noted that the Cabinet approved the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Bill (2011). 

A prevalence surveillance plan was designed for the proposed Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) protection area of KwaZulu-Natal.

DAFF had, in the Forestry and Natural Resources Management Programme, provided technical support and advice to 700 growers in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, linked to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). 69 Stream Flow Reduction Action (SFRA) licenses were issued Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. 27 licenses were issued with conditions in the Western Cape.

The Land Care programme created 2 300 job opportunities. The Junior Land Care projects also facilitated the establishment of four community nurseries in KwaZulu-Natal.

A draft document for coping with floods was developed. Monitoring of the post-disaster assistance scheme was conduct in August 2011 and implementation was in progress at the time.

125 hectares were revitalised and 26 272 hectares were rehabilitated through various programmes.

The national climate change conference for the sector was held in August 2011, attended by some committee members, and inputs were consolidated into the draft Adaptation and Mitigation Plan.

Dr Mashaba outlined the work of the Fisheries management Programme. The Camdeboo Women’s Trust (CWT), a smallholder producer association, was established to facilitate the implementation of the Camdeboo Satellite Aquaculture Project (CSAP). There was ongoing collection of data regarding 22 fishery sectors and the catch limit recommendations were provided on nine resources. The Fisheries Scientific Working Group met to monitor the progress of several species and fisheries. Ecological Risk Assessments were completed for hake and squid. An amended Small-Scale fisheries policy was tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and a Cabinet Memorandum was drafted in support for the policy. In addition, terms of reference were development to appoint a service provider to develop an implementation plan. Individual Right Holder reports were verified for Sector A and B, and revised letters were sent to right holders in clusters C and D. The Integrated Fisheries Security Strategy (IFSS) was partially implemented and local co-management structures were established for subsistence fisheries and recreational fishing.

The Department acknowledged that it faced challenges regarding the implementation of its new structure; the sustainability of funded projects, stakeholder engagement, disease outbreaks, and intergovernmental relations. Limited funding was singled out as a major challenge, but the Department reported that it was developing frameworks for stakeholder engagement and for collaboration with the provinces. In addition, the process to finalise a permanent management structure was under way and current officials had gone to district municipalities to gather feedback.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked how the DAFF dealt with state-owned entities (SOEs) during the quarter and highlighted the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) as a well-performing example.

Dr Mashaba responded that SOEs reported to the Ministry and not to the Department, but that DAFF would invite them to present their reports to the Committee.

Ms Phaliso asked for more information regarding the Fisheries’ branch’s operations, particularly the e-permit system, and requested that the whole branch should be invited to make a presentation to the Committee to clarify its work.

Ms Middleton explained that the e-permit system processed recreational fishing permits, which were available to any South African citizen, through its website. The Fisheries branch would welcome a presentation to Parliament or a visit by parliamentarians to its offices.

Mr N Du Toit (DA) asked why there was no public participation regarding the ban on night fishing on the Breede River.

Ms Middleton explained that the Department had gazetted the proposed ban on night fishing and asked for public comment. At that point, the ban was not yet imposed, as DAFF was still in the process of considering the public’s comments.

Members asked for more information on the Department’s ongoing response to the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal, why surveillance strategies had previously failed and whether DAFF had a fencing plan.

Dr Mashaba responded that the Department’s colleagues in KwaZulu-Natal would be invited to present to the Committee. DAFF estimated that it would take South Africa two years to regain ‘Disease-Free’ status and DAFF would therefore need to cordon off the area and monitor all regions of the country. A surge in vaccination was under way, in preparation for the report on the country’s progress to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
 
Mr Bosman asked for clarification on the targets and benefits of DAFF policies for small stakeholders.

Ms Middleton explained that the SMME strategy was one of many, and that several branches within the DAFF registered 18 cooperatives and were providing comprehensive support to smallholders.

Mr Bosman asked why the DAFF was creating guidelines for sexual harassment and gender equality, given existing legal guidelines.

Mr Sipho Ntombela, Deputy Director General: Corporate Services, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) agreed that the issues indeed fell under the mandate of the Department of Labour, but explained that DAFF customised these generic guidelines to meet the specific challenges faced by workers in the agricultural sector.

Mr Bosman asked whether the matter between the DAFF and the Red Meat Industry Forum had been resolved.

Dr Mashaba responded that the DAFF was going to hold a workshop with the Red Meat Industry Forum on the following day, as instructed by the Committee.

Mr Bosman asked whether the Department of Water Affairs was involved in the DAFF’s disaster management strategies and highlighted that the Land Bank had only disbursed funds to some of the areas affected by flooding in the Eastern Cape.

Dr Rampedi explained that both the DAFF and Department on Water Affairs sat on the committee for disaster management, but its mandate fell under the Department of Cooperative Governance. The Department requested time to prepare a written response on this issue.

Mr Du Toit asked whether there was an up-to-date strategy regarding and when this was finalised.

Dr Rampedi replied that there was a general framework under the Disaster Management Act, but that the Department was mandated with providing a response strategy for every disaster in order to receive funds from the National Treasury.

Mr Bosman asked for details regarding the DAFF’s programmes for training citizens in pest control and the registration of animal feeds. The delay in providing certification meant that people could not apply for jobs that required such certification to be proved.

Mr Robert Ramasodi, Director of Inspection Services, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained that legislation established the registration process and that a task team had tabled a report to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries regarding the DAFF’s challenges with managing the capacity, information system, and turnaround times. The Department certification process occurred in conjunction with the industry and provided a certificate with a Personal Identification Number (PIN), but its figures were currently consolidated under ‘Services’ and DAFF would therefore have to extract the specific figures.

Mr Bosman asked why the application process for land subdivision (in line with the Subdivision of Land Act of 1970), particularly near to urban centres, still required permission from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. These delays slowed down the vital development of the sector.

Dr Rampedi explained that the Department was proposing a comprehensive, national strategy in order to highlight vital areas to food security and dissuade applications relating to those areas. She requested time to prepare a written report on applications from the previous three years.

The Chairperson asked for comment regarding the fact that some of the areas identified as vital to food security lay fallow.

Dr Rampedi replied that this was a new area of responsibility for her, and requested that she be allowed to provide a written response. In her experience, reports provided by developers often differed from those compiled by the Department. Results depended on the quality of soil and DAFF’s approach was protectionist, which sometimes promoted leaving land fallow for a while. The DAFF recognised that this was an area of interest, particularly in the economic climate of the time.  

Mr Du Toit asked how the DAFF planned to reconcile its goal to reduce food prices with the goal to improve farmers’ living conditions.

Dr Mashaba responded that the Department planned to do so by increasing productivity in competitive commodities, in anticipation that raising production would make an impact on food prices.

Members listed a number of areas in which the DAFF’s presentation failed to provide specific funding estimates, targets, and deadlines for its strategies and programmes.

In response to Mr Du Toit’s comment on the lack of a specified deadline for the security policy, Mr Ntombela replied that it was due at the end of the 2011/2012 financial year.

Mr Hlatshwayo requested to provide a written response to clarify questions relating to CSASP and Ilima/Letsema.

Dr Mashaba added that the DAFF would also provide a comprehensive report on the progress in smallholders’ programmes in the following two weeks. The provincial departments set many targets and the DAFF could only set norms and standards. In response to concerns regarding targets for cooperatives, he noted that DAFF could only act as a facilitator, as the entities were voluntary in nature.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee was in its final week of operation and would therefore need all written responses by the following Thursday, 1 December 2011.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked whether the DAFF promoted organic produce for the local market, considering some countries’ reservations regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

Mr Ramasodi agreed that a number of African countries expressed their dissatisfaction with GMOs, which had led Kenya to reject South African products, and that the DAFF needed to promote awareness of both GMOs and other practices. A draft policy on organic produce was under way to create standards for this practice.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane referred to the supplementary documents and asked for more information on the allocation of extension officers in the provinces and for an explanation for some provinces’ failure to spend allocated funds at the end of September 2009/2010.

Mr Hlatshwayo requested time to prepare and submit a written response on expenditure in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Ms Phaliso asked how the Department planned to ensure that there would be 15 000 smallholders by the end of 2011/2012 and asked for clarification on the programme’s targets, budget and implementation.

The Chairperson added that the report lacked clarity and DAFF needed to break down its work by province to give Members a clearer picture on what DAFF had achieved in their respective constituencies. The report needed to focus on substantive progress, by demonstrating how DAFF programmes changed lives.

Dr Mashaba responded that the issue of impact was a significant challenge for the Department because its development programmes were often not visible. In response, DAFF was implementing spatial plans, working towards establishing synergistic relationships with other departments, and establishing more visible markets. In addition, the Department was collaborating with the Department of Labour to establish a comprehensive approach to respond to the challenges that farm workers faced.

The Chairperson asked how the Department planned to reconcile its policies on Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges with the provincial departments, in order to promote and secure the national interest. The Chairperson employed the example of Fort Cox Agricultural College’s demise. The Chairperson also remarked that the trend appeared to indicate that DAFF impeded progress in those colleges that worked well and asked if the Department of Higher Education and Training provided any input.

Dr Mashaba responded that the DAFF had recently appointed a director for the colleges, both to manage accreditation and to implement standards. The Department of Higher Education had allocated funds to the DAFF for all colleges and R5 million was specifically earmarked to restore Fort Cox College.

The Chairperson asked what other Bills the Department had drafted.

Dr Mashaba responded that DAFF had submitted two other Bills to Parliament, which were currently under review by the State Law Advisors.

The Chairperson asked why the Department did not take a holistic approach to sector development beyond grain and fruit, in order to assure future growth in industries such as milk and beef. At the present time, communal farmers provided only 10% of the local market in beef, while South Africa imported approximately R4 billion worth of beef from countries such as Botswana and Australia. The Chairperson highlighted that simple strategies, such as promoting livestock health, could improve the situation and that DAFF appeared to lack a sense of urgency.

Mr Richard Seleke, Chief Director: Policy and Planning, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained that the Department’s Director General approved a strategy to use current resources to link smallholders to markets and that DAFF aimed to link national and provincial strategies by February 2012.

Dr Mashaba added that DAFF considered all commodity groups when planning its strategies. He also stated that the Kaonafatsoya Dikgomo programme existed to promote animal production, but agreed that progress was slow.

The Chairperson asked for comment on the looming problem regarding the disagreement between the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the animal industry about establishing independent systems.

Dr Mashaba explained that the Department was in the process of mediating between the two parties, but that it was difficult to hold the industry players accountable. However, legislation clearly stated that the industry could not monitor its own animals. DAFF hoped for an amicable resolution between the two parties.

Mr Bosman asked for comment on the ‘unreasonable’ import tax on recreational fishing in countries like Namibia.

Ms Middleton requested seven days to provide a detailed, written response on the issue.

Mr Bosman expressed his dissatisfaction with the Department’s response to the issue of Foot and Mouth Disease. He asked why the Department appeared constantly to change its timeline for regaining export status from one year to two, particularly as the sector was losing millions of rands. There were various approaches to regaining OIE ‘Disease-Free’ status that would be faster and more effective.

Dr Mashaba explained that previous approaches combined vaccinating unaffected livestock and killing sick livestock, but that DAFF’s approach in KwaZulu-Natal at the time was limited to vaccination. As a result, the progress was slow.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoasane noted that a previous outbreak in Limpopo was traced to wild animals crossing into the province from the Kruger National Park and asked what the Department was planning to ensure the long-term security of the Park’s fencing. She also asked if DAFF was considering how other countries resolved similar problems.

The Chairperson asked about the norms and standards relating to wildlife.

Mr Ramasodi replied that the issue of fencing was primarily a border security issue, rather than an agricultural one, therefore the DAFF was working with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on a joint strategy, also with the Department of Public Works.

Mr Bosman asked whether the DAFF’s senior officials had performance agreements as the Committee has consistently failed to see any substantive results.

Dr Mashaba responded that the presenters could not comment on the performance agreements.

The Chairperson requested that the Department prepare a written statement on the issue.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoasane asked for clarification on the number of rehabilitated and revitalised hectares from the first to the second quarters.

Dr Mashaba responded that he would check the figures.

Ms Phaliso asked why the document of the Department had indicated that the funds allocated to agricultural colleges went unspent in KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Mashaba responded that he would follow up with the provincial departments to provide the relevant information.

The Chairperson closed that session

The Committee then considered and adopted its programme for 2012.

The meeting was adjourned.

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