The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries outlined planned policies which included
the Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP)11 – Agri-logistics and Rural Infrastructure -- a policy on supporting labour-intensive commercial agriculture, and a strategy for urban agriculture. Targets for the various programmes were matched to actual performance. Analysis of expenditure per programme showed that under-spending on the Food Security and Agrarian Reform programme amounted to only 12.2%, against the target of 25%. It was concluded that the sector’s share of the gross domestic product was declining, and that vulnerability to food insecurity was increasing.
It was critical for government to intervene through direct support mechanisms to protect farms and farm workers. There had to be accelerated collaboration with stakeholders through existing forums. If one looked at money being pushed into education, health and crime prevention, it was huge compared to what was being granted for food security. Government’s contribution to farmers was not big. Commercial farmers had to compete with subsidised overseas farmers. In South Africa, the subsidy was 5 cents in the rand, while in Europe it was many times that.
In discussion, complaints were made that the Department continued to take issues raised by the Committee off the agenda. There was concern about marine poaching and vessel inspections. Another Member expressed grave concern about the lack of progress in providing and developing food security. There was concern about rural unemployment. Corruption in the fishing industry had to be addressed.
The Department was told that there were problems when an organisation had plans, but no stable leadership, and there was no stability in the Department. There was concern about inadequate reporting on funds received and spent by the provinces. Job losses in agriculture received attention, and there were questions about employment opportunities in forestry. The Department was urged to cooperate with other departments on irrigation. There were questions about genetically modified organisms and aquaculture. Inconsistency in the Department’s reporting on statistics was pointed out. Several Members felt that there was little clarity about what was being done in the provinces. There was considerable interest in the condition of the seagoing vessels owned by the Department.
Briefing on First Quarter Performance and Expenditure
Mr Sipho Ntombela, DAFF Deputy Director General, outlined planned policies to be developed in important areas. These included the Strategic Infrastructure Project (SIP)11 – Agri-logistics and Rural Infrastructure -- a policy on supporting labour intensive commercial agriculture, and a strategy for urban agriculture. He took the Committee through an analysis of first quarter targets against actual performance..
Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer, outlined expenditure per programme. The Food Security and Agrarian Reform programme fared the worst in terms of reaching the quarterly target of 25% of the yearly budget. Spending amounted to only 12.2%. There was overspending on Trade Promotion and Market Access, to the tune of 38.4%.
Mr Ntombela concluded that the sector’s share of the gross domestic product (GDP) was declining. Vulnerability to food insecurity was increasing and food security status was deteriorating. It was critical for government to intervene through direct support mechanisms to protect farms and farm workers. There had to be accelerated collaboration with stakeholders through existing forums.
Mr P van Dalen (DA) remarked that the document related to fisheries for the first quarter in 2010/11, had been a big document. The year after, it had been half that size, and for the current year it was another half smaller. Issues raised by the Portfolio Committee had been taken off the list. Questions that had been asked did not reappear. One had to read about things in the media. Targets not met in previous years had simply been lowered. The inspection of fishing vessels was an example. The initial target had been half of all vessels, but that target had first been lowered to 400, which had not been reached, and currently stood at 150. The target had then been overachieved, with 374 inspections. Apples had to be compared to apples. Budgets were going up and targets were going down.
Mr Van Dalen remarked that there was no longer concern over the improvement of fishing harbours. There had been a big “hooha” at the time, but now there was nothing.
Mr Ikalafeng Kgakatsi, Acting Chief Director, Natural Resource Management (NRM), replied that there was a Department-wide evaluation of key deliverables.
Mr Van Dalen commented that the briefing stated that the West Coast rock lobster target had been reached. That was not ture, because it was on the brink of collapse. Only 3% were left. A 20% recovery had been set as the target for 2012. He asked if that 20% were pristine rock lobster. The Sunday Times had carried an article that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had downgraded South African lobster. It could become impossible to sell it. Military veterans had been hired to guard against poaching, but they had then been fired. The war against poachers was being lost. One-third of the available quota had been stolen in one day. He asked what protective measures were in place. He considered laying criminal charges, because an asset was not being protected.
Mr Kgakatsi replied that the military veterans had been employed under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). There had been re-advertising for a new tender.
Ms A Steyn (DA) noted that the DAFF had made a presentation to an ad hoc committee the previous day. Figures about assistance to farmers had been disclosed that did not make sense. They were not the same as those presented to the Portfolio Committee. The total amount of assistance for farmers, and figures on land ploughed, were different from figures disclosed at the beginning of the year. She asked about the contribution of agriculture to the GDP for the term.
Ms Steyn referred to strategic goals, as set out in slide 3. Farming debt was going up. What was the Department doing to assist with food for people who could not provide for themselves? She referred to the food security programme (slide 25) -- only four food gardens had been established in Mpumalanga, at a time when the focus had moved to household food security. Poor people were not being helped. Statistics had been released two weeks before, that showed that there were more hungry people in the country than five years ago. The war on poverty was not being won.
Mr Ntombela replied that food security was a priority for government. If one looked at money being pushed into education, health and crime prevention, it was huge compared to what was granted for food security. Government’s contribution to farmers was not big. Commercial farmers had to compete with subsidised overseas farmers. In South Africa, the subsidy was 5 cents in the rand, while in Europe it was many times that.
Mr Bonga Msomi, Chief Director, National Extension Support, added that statistics stated annual targets for subsistence targets. It did not include information from conditional grants. The quarterly target was too high a figure.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked what was being done to provide employment for the masses of rural people. He asked about people employed to clear alien plants.
Ms Susan Leseke, Chief Director, Forestry Operations, replied that there were land care programmes to clear alien plants, to make sure that grazing land was protected.
Mr Cebekhulu asked about the number of dams available for aquaculture, and how many were productive.
Mr Kgakatsi replied that there were 161 freshwater fishing farms. Four were funded by the DAFF, and the rest through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP). The numbers would increase.
Mr Cebekhulu remarked that there were over 1 000 vacancies. He asked about mechanisms to fill these posts.
Mr Ntombela replied that there had been a 12% vacancy level in the previous report, but that figure had gone down. There had been interventions. A special organisational development committee was looking at vacancies everywhere. If a vacancy was not filled within a certain time, it was abolished or transferred to another unit. When the Department had attained its current form, Fisheries had been transferred and staff were inherited from the Department of Environment and Tourism. The fisheries branch had been asked to prioritise posts. There were 51 posts in Fisheries without funding.
Mr Cebekhulu noted that only 70% of staff members had submitted work plans. He asked what was done about those who did not comply.
Mr Ntombela replied that managers needed an initial three months to develop work plans, and this had brought the compliance figure down.
Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) referred to expenditure trends in slide 47. The percentage expenditure for food security and agrarian reform was low. The highest percentage should rightly have gone to food security. Poor people would remain poor. Money was not being used to help them.
Mr Ntombela replied that the Minister had met with the MEC about food security. 70% of CASP money had to go towards food production. The Committee needed a full presentation on food security.
Mr Hlatshwayo added that a yearly calendar was used. The Treasury had come up with a payment schedule.
Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked about job creation in forestry, to bring better lives to people.
Ms Leseke replied that forestry jobs were an economic driver, but the problem was that it was seasonal. The planting season would start only in the third quarter.
Ms M Phaliso (ANC) asked when IT software would be finalised and implemented (slide 13). The fishery sector was corrupt, and there had to be IT to combat that.
She asked how the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) was being implemented, and about progress with the Marine Resources Bill. There had to be the right allocation to the poorest of the poor.
Ms Phaliso referred to the depletion of stocks. What was the Department doing about seals eating traditional line fish? She knew that she would get threatening e-mails about the matter, but she did not care.
Mr Kgakatsi replied that a research team, together with the DDG, was compiling a report on the matter.
Ms Phaliso referred to the investigation of poaching (slide 41). Outcomes of investigations were needed so that guilty parties could be named and shamed. It would be the regular offenders. They had to be blacklisted by company and by name.
Mr S Abram (ANC) told the Department that he had sympathy with them. There were problems when an organisation had plans, but no stable leadership. There was no stability in the Department. Appointments had to be made.
Mr Abram asked about funds allocated to provinces. He asked what the level of compliance was with regard to the reporting of funds received and spent. What was the frequency of interaction with the provinces? If there was a failure to report, the Committee had to know. He asked about systems to compel the provinces to report. The national department could not do everything.
Mr Hlatshwayo replied that reports were received from the provinces on a monthly basis.
Mr Abram said that he had pointed out on 12 March that mechanized implements were rusting at Vrede in the Free State. The Department had undertaken to report within 14 days, but no report had as yet been received. Millions of rands of farming equipment was going to waste.
He had handed over a letter to the acting DDG of fisheries from a cooperative in Pongola. The letter had not been acknowledged, even after he had raised the issue again. If Parliament did not get a response, it meant that people on the ground were not being served.
Mr Abram said that stability had to be created through food security. There could not be stability without food. He asked for information about job losses in agriculture. The Department of Rural Development was buying productive farms, they linked up with service providers, and jobs were lost.
The Chairperson asked for a report on bilateral and multilateral agreements, and whether those were of benefit to the country. He asked if the Integrated Growth Development Plan (IGDP) was going to remain a draft forever. The Department had reported that it had been approved by Cabinet.
Dr Amon Myeni, Director of Cooperatives and Enterprise Development, DAFF, replied that there had been a request from the Chairperson to report on bilateral agreements at Greater Letaba municipality. The study had not been completed. The consultant wanted R450 000, so the study had been put on hold. Studies were important for service delivery. The matter of bilateral agreements would be taken to colleagues, and the Department would report on that.
Mr Ntombela replied that the IGDP process was going up and down. It had been taken to Cabinet, who were happy with it. There was alignment with the Industrial Policy Action Plan, and the New Growth Plan. The IGDP had gone back to the Forum of Directors General. A policy and action plan for agriculture was needed. The IGDP had to close the policy gap. There had been amendments. MPs had asked questions about its impact, but he could not yet report on this. The IGDP had to be converted into a long-term policy.
The Chairperson remarked that he was not hearing about Millenium Development Goal (MDG) targets. Literature from other countries had to be studied. Different departments were involved in irrigation development. There had to be an end to silo reports. The country had to have irrigation. There were serious duplications.
The Chairperson asked about agricultural colleges and support for farmers and farm workers. The Department had to elaborate about support for farmers through subsidies.
Mr Msomi replied that agricultural colleges would be transferred to the Department of Higher Education. Two universities had been established.
Mr Hlatshwayo said that the subsidy for agriculture was 10%. The country was a participant in a World Bank study to gather information on how much was spent on agriculture.
Ms Phaliso remarked that the feasibility of the intended wool processing plant at Elundini municipalty had to be explained (slide 29). The Committee could make an oversight visit to Hout Bay. People from there were complaining to Parliament every week. She referred to over- and under-spending (slide 49), and said there was skewed spending and a reluctance to comply. To withhold funding was to stop employment. With regard to food security, she said that people had to be named and shamed. The provinces were saying that they accounted to legislators, which delayed service delivery.
Mr Cebekhulu referred to the food health and safety programme. He was not comfortable about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The Department had to brief the Committee about that. GMOs had been banned in Europe. The effect of maize meal and soya on our life systems had to be examined. The Department had to continuously push the issue of GMOs on food shelves. What had been identified in Europe about ingredients in meat also applied to South Africa.
Ms Steyn said that she understood that the report dealt only with the first quarter, but progress in every quarter had to be there for long-term progress to continue. A target not achieved for a quarter was a problem. There were more hungry people than ever before. If a target was not achieved, it meant nothing had happened.
Ms Steyn said that the Mafisa documents had remained unchanged since 2005.
Mr Ntombela replied that he would instruct a Chief Director to deal with the matter.
Ms Steyn asked what was being done to establish early warning systems (slide 20).
Ms Steyn asked about feasibility studies for the wool processing plant. There had been massive unrest in municipalties about the matter. Wool processing needed water and the Department had to know if that was available.
Ms Steyn asked how land care worked, and whether the Department took the initiative in land care. She appreciated what was being done, but she wanted to pull her hair out because there was too much red tape. Senior management were presenting incorrect information as honest truth.
The Chairperson cautioned Ms Steyn to not assume that she was speaking on behalf of the Committee.
Mr Abram remarked that if the National Department could not find ways to get the provinces to carry out directives, there would be trouble. Mechanisms had to be put in place, or the provinces would do their own thing. There was no synchronisation between the national and provincial departments.
Mr Abram said that he was disappointed that issues were not being dealt with. Over the preceding four years the country had seen 3 000 protests. One expected integrity and accountability. The Department had to face challenges and cross hurdles. It would not do, to cover up and hide things.
Ms N Twala (ANC) asked what bearing deviations from planned targets had on the Auditor General’s findings.
Ms Twala said that there had been no progress with support for subsistence farming. There were said to be 59 household gardens in KZN, but she knew that there were more. She asked if there had been achievements with regard to animal health.
Ms Phaliso referred to the national extension of support services. A list of municipalities involved, was needed, as well as a written report on jobs created by the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and fisheries.
Ms Steyn referred to Northern Cape’s disaster funding not being spent in the previous year, resulting in it being lost. Where money had not been spent, it showed a lack of political will.
Mr Hlatshwayo replied that the money had been diverted to the drought in the North West Province.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM) commented that he agreed with Mr Abram and Ms Phaliso. The Committee was not getting information on what was really happening in the provinces. The Oliver Tambo farmers would prove that. There had to be a list of CASP projects in the Eastern Cape, and a list of allocations. Mr Msomi could provide an Eastern Cape list.
Mr Hlatshwayo replied that information on CASP would be supplied.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had been told that 13 000 hectares in the George/Overberg area had been re-forested. There had to be a sense of what was going on. R600 million had been budgeted for the harvesting of alien plants, but a private entrepreneur had offered to do that at no expense to government. The entrepreneur had an interest in the alien plants for fuel. He asked the Department to comment.
The Chairperson referred to the fact that information about 76 rights owners could not be divulged, because it was a sensitive matter. The Department could brief the Committee on sensitive matters, perhaps in a closed session. When the Committee was told that a matter was sensitive, nothing happened.
The Chairperson advised that research programmes on animal improvement schemes were lumped together with others. Resources had to be pulled together, as there was duplication. The department had only one animal improvement scheme.
The Chairperson urged the Department to undertake a full investigation into seagoing vessels. Smit Amandla had managed government vessels for 12 years. The contract agreement regarding the condition of vessels had to be looked into. A report was needed on the condition the vessels were in when received. The government had to repair the vessels and it had to be known what state they were in. The nature and extent of damage to vessels had to be known.
Ms Steyn noted that there was another boat in trouble in KZN. The question was whether the boats could render assistance. The report on Smit Amandla had to be extended to include the current status of the boats.
The Chairperson commented that the Hawks were investigating Smit Amandla.
The Chairperson asked for written responses about the implications of deviations from targets.
Mr Steyn called for a presentation on food security by the cluster.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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