Update on Agriculture Support Programme, food security, Ilima-Letsama Programme & living and working conditions of farm workers: briefing by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

27 May 2013
Chairperson: Ms A Qikani (ANC; Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs opened the meeting with a complaint to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that the presentation documents were not submitted to the Committee prior to the meeting and as a result it could not prepare properly for the meeting. This had happened with another department the previous week and was seriously hampering the Committee’s ability to carry out its mandate. After a ten minute closed meeting, the Committee decided to receive the presentations but would not debate on the material presented. The Department apologised for late delivery of the documents and presented on the Food Security and Agrarian Policy Action Plan for South Africa; CASP & Ilima-Letsama; and living and working conditions of farm workers, specifically in the Western Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga.

The Department believed that a policy framework would assist stakeholders to understand their role in achieving a food secure country, where over 70% of the 2.8 million households vulnerable to food insecurity were in rural areas. The Integrated Food Security Production Intervention (IFSPI) target for maize and beans was 446500 hectares of communal land and 553500 hectares of commercial land. The Department had engaged with National Treasury on budget prioritisation as well as with the Department of Trade & Industry on funds, harvesting, jobs and other joint ventures. Maize would be allocated 80% of the crop land with a budget of R6.4 billion and beans would be allocated 20% of crop land, with a budget of R2 billion. The total estimated yield for both commodities was 11653 tons. Other IFSPI commodity targets over the immediate period, short-term and long-term were outlined for vegetables, cattle, goats, poultry, fish and other value-adding focuses.

The purpose of the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) was to provide effective agricultural support and streamline provision of services to targeted beneficiaries of land reform restitution and redistribution, as well as to other black producers who had acquired land through private means and were engaged in value-adding enterprises both domestically or for export. Since inception in 2004, 7012 projects had been implemented; 387311 beneficiaries had been reached; and on average, 77.6% of the budget had been spent. In 2012/13, 82% of the budget had been spent. At the end of the fourth quarter, 364 of the 536 CASP projects had been completed. A total of 5376 jobs had been created, consisting of 1699 permanent and 3677 temporary jobs and CASP had offered credit-bearing farm training to 430 beneficiaries and non-credit bearing training to 1770 beneficiaries.

The purpose of the Ilima/Letsema Programme was to fight poverty by increasing food production through farming. It also focused the rehabilitation of the irrigation schemes and other value adding projects. In 2012/13, 90.9% of the allocation of R415.7 million had been spent, with crop accounting for 43% of the budget; livestock 21%; households 16%; irrigation 11%; schools 3% and value adding 6%. Support was offered to 12633 subsistence farmers, 18948 smallholder farmers and 2071 black commercial farmers. A total of 61407 hectares were planted and 5370 jobs were created, of which 1421 were temporary jobs. Jobs creation was highest in KZN province.

In terms of farm worker conditions, the Human Rights Watch report on the dismal state of worker conditions in the fruit and wine industries of the Western Cape could be extended to the state of farm worker conditions for the rest of the country. In July 2010, DAFF convened an unprecedented National Vulnerable Workers Summit which was attended by almost 2000 farm workers from all provinces and issues of working conditions, security of tenure, social health, training and empowerment were debated. Together with the Departments of Labour, Basic and Higher Education & Training, Rural Development and Land Reform, Health, Provincial Departments of Agriculture, NGOs and civil society, the National Vulnerable Workers Delivery Forum, with DAFF playing a coordinating role, had implemented ambitious interventions to deliver changes in all nine provinces. The problem with the 1 November 2012 sectoral determination of minimum wage of R105/day was that farmers were likely to mechanize farming and shed jobs. There had been 2000 applications from farmers to the Department of Labour requesting exemption from the obligation to pay the R105/day wage.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson commented that the Committee had not received any relevant documents prior to the meeting and therefore could not prepare for the meeting.

Mr Sizwe Mkhize, Deputy Director-General: Food security and Agra Reform; Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), apologised for the late delivery of documents. The message about the meeting had only been received the previous Friday.

The Chairperson asked Members for their comment. DAFF was given at least one week’s notice of the meeting.

Ms B Mabe (ANC; Gauteng) proposed that DAFF be given the opportunity to present since it had come to Parliament that day, but that the Committee itself should not engage on issues. However, this situation was unacceptable and had also occurred the previous week with another Department. She suggested that the Committee’s concern should be raised in a letter to the Minister.

Mr G Mokgoro (ANC; Northern Cape) argued that this was a historical issue and that the Committee could not continue to accept DAFF’s countless apologies, while the Committee had a mandate to execute. He further asked when the Minister and/or Director-General would come and account to the Committee. There was no sign of DAFF adjusting to the requests of the Committee. On principle, as Whip, he believed that the briefing by DAFF should not be accepted.

The Chairperson accepted both comments and after a ten minute closed meeting, announced that the Committee had resolved to receive the presentations but that no questions would be posed to DAFF.

Mr Mokgoro added that DAFF was failing communities at ground level and it was the Committee’s great responsibility - its mandate - to answer to the people. South Africa was a developing country where massive development should take place in the rural areas. However, owing to the failure of DAFF, nothing was taking place in rural areas.
Briefing by DAFF
Mr Mkhize introduced the presentations and their presenters.

Food Security and Agrarian Policy Action Plan for South Africa
Mr Zubusiso Dlamini, Chief Director: Food Security; DAFF, said that the current challenges for agriculture in South Africa were: declining number of commercial farmers; farmers consolidating enterprises to maximize profits, making it difficult for new farmers to gain entrance; ageing farming population; struggling/distressed emerging farmers; limited support to agriculture; and diminishing agricultural skills.

While South Africa was nationally food secure, it was not food secure at the household level. South Africa imported 40% more food recently than it had for the past five years and wheat demand was expected to grow by almost 90% by 2020 due to food consumption pattern changes and economic growth.

Over 70% of the 2.8 million households vulnerable to food insecurity were in rural areas. (Detail on socio-economic and malnutrition statistics can be found in the document attached.)
South Africa’s food security goal was to end hunger by 2030. The government’s objectives were to: promote public investment in agriculture; ensure access to support services (cheap credit, inputs, research & technology and markets) by the resource poor farmers; promote local trade through a sustainable food purchase programme linked to the emerging agricultural sector; ensure the existence of the macro economic and market environment that would promote food security at national and household level; and harmonise food security with land reform and strengthen links with support services.

The Integrated Food Security Production Intervention (IFSPI) target for maize and beans was 446500 hectares of communal land in all provinces except Free State and 553500 hectares of commercial land in all provinces. Other IFSPI commodity targets over the immediate period, short-term and long-term were outlined for vegetables, cattle, goats, poultry, fish and other value-adding focuses. To date, DTI was considering supporting harvesting, storage options had been addressed; markets had been considered. Draft plans for crops for the 1 million hectares of under-utilised agricultural land were in place and DAFF had engaged with national treasury on budget prioritisation and DTI on funds, jobs, etc. Maize would be allocated 80% of the crop land with a budget of R6.4 billion. Beans would be allocated 20% of crop land with a budget of R2 billion. The total budget allocation would be R8.4 billion and after five years, the budget was forecasted to be R14.3 billion. While this appeared to be a significant amount, the spin-off benefits had multiplied effects.

(A summary of estimated yields for maize and beans per province can be found on page 15 of the document attached.) Total estimated yield for both commodities was 11653 tons.

Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP)
Ms Elder Mtshiza, Project Management Coordinator; DAFF, said that the purpose of the programme was to provide effective agricultural support and streamline provision of services to targeted beneficiaries of land reform restitution and redistribution; as well as to other black producers who had acquired land through private means and were engaged in value-adding enterprises domestically, or involved in export. Since inception in 2004, 7012 projects had been implemented. 387311 beneficiaries had been reached and on average, 77.6% of the budget had been spent. In 2012/13, 82% of the budget had been spent. At the end of the fourth quarter, 364 of the 536 CASP projects had been completed. (A breakdown of the number of male/female/youth/disabled beneficiaries per province supported by CASP can be found in the document attached). A total of 5376 jobs had been created, consisting of 1699 permanent and 3677 temporary jobs and CASP had offered credit-bearing farm training to 430 beneficiaries and non-credit bearing training to 1770 beneficiaries. A total of 18893 beneficiaries had been trained over the four quarters.

Ilima-Letsama Programme
The purpose of the Ilima/Letsema Programme was to fight poverty by increasing food production through farming. The programme also focused on unlocking agricultural production by investing in other strategic programmes that included the rehabilitation of the irrigation schemes and other value adding projects. Since inception in 2008, R1.2 billion had been grant allocated to the programme and 97.4% of this amount had been spent. In 2012/13, 90.9% of the allocation of R415.7 million had been spent. In 2012/13, crop was the main focus and accounted for 43% of the budget. Livestock accounted for 21%; households 16%; irrigation 11%; schools 3% and value adding 6%. The programme’s spending performance and supported beneficiaries per province is outlined in detail in the attached document. With regard to category of farmers, 12633 subsistence farmers were supported; 18948 smallholder farmers were supported and 2071 black commercial farmers were supported. A total of 61407 hectares were planted and 5370 jobs were created, of which 1421 were temporary jobs. Jobs creation was highest in KZN province.

Living and working conditions of farm workers, specifically in the Western Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga
Mr Mokutule Kgobokoe, Chief Director: Sector Capacity Development, DAFF, said that the Human Rights Watch report on the Western Cape had provided a picture of the sad situation in the rest of the country in terms of farm worker conditions. In July 2010, DAFF had convened an unprecedented National Vulnerable Workers Summit which was attended by almost 2000 farm workers from all provinces. Issues of working conditions, security of tenure, social health, training and empowerment were debated. Together with the Departments of Labour, Basic and Higher Education & Training, Rural Development and Land Reform, Health, provincial departments of Agriculture, NGOs and civil society, the National Vulnerable Workers Delivery Forum, with DAFF playing a coordinating role, had implemented ambitious interventions to deliver changes in all nine provinces.

The 1 November 2012 sectoral determination of minimum wage of R105 per day had not entirely relieved the issue of wages for farm workers who had demanded R150 per day. The problem was that farmers could not afford the R105 per day and were therefore likely to mechanise farming and shed jobs. There had been 2000 applications from farmers to the Department of Labour requesting exemption from the obligation to pay the R105 per day wage. Together with the other Departments, DAFF was determined to succeed at improving the working conditions of farm workers.

The Chairperson thanked DAFF for the presentations and requested more information to be submitted to the Committee on policies in the second and third presentations, and for information on the strategic plan and budget in order for Members to be able to debate on relevant issues.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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