Committee Legacy Report; Oversight Reports: adoption

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

10 March 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson and Members commented that the severe flooding that had recently taken place in North West required some intervention from the Disaster Management teams, and said that the Committee, despite the fact that this was the last week of Parliament, needed to get some information from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on what it was doing. Members bemoaned the lack of effective extension services in the DAFF, and said that a recommendation would be made to the incoming committee in the Fifth Parliament to question extension officers on their role in disaster management, and that this would be included in the Committee’s Legacy Report, in addition to issues discussed later.

The Committee discussed, and adopted, with amendments, its report on the oversight visits to Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC). Members recommended that the numbers of programmes monitoring climate change and climate predications should be increased, noted that the efficacy of the Soil Information System was hindered by insufficient human capacity, and asked that a specific recommendation should be made to increase the funding for the Agricultural Geo-referenced Information System (AGIS), and that information should be regularly updated and conveyed to the provinces. It was noted that 60% of the country’s water was used for agriculture, followed by mine use. It was suggested also in the report that the incoming committee should investigate the effectiveness of the water harvesting strategy.

The Committee then considered, and adopted, with amendments, its draft Legacy report. Specific recommendations were added that the Land Bank, although not reporting directly to this Committee, should nonetheless submit reports to the incoming committee as it dealt with the agriculture sector. The Minister was asked to give statistics on job creation to the incoming committee. A specific recommendation was inserted that the incoming Committee must review the Public Protector’s Report into the fisheries unit, and this was noted under “unfinished business”. The settlement offered to the former accounting officer, who had been dismissed, should be discussed in detail. A recommendation was included on labour permits for wool shearers. The section on legislation was clarified to note the reasons for not processing the Fertilizers and Feed Bill. The section on disease outbreaks was also clarified in respect of the ban on importation of horses, partial ban on citrus exports and the limitations and conditions imposed in respect of export of meat following the foot and mouth disease outbreaks, and this should be mentioned as an issue needing to be followed up by the incoming committee. It was suggested that the incoming committee should also take up with the Department of Labour the possibility of compensation for fishers who died at sea, and rebates for sea users. departments. Other issues included a redefinition of agriculture, the Maputo Declaration, the vacancy rate in DAFF, and possible reconsideration of soft loans for farmers by Land Bank. It was noted that reports from the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) on Consumer Protection and Compulsory Specifications must be submitted when they were available.

The Committee adopted minutes of meetings held on 11, 12, 19 and 26 February 2014.

 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson commended the Committee for a job well done during the term, in terms of oversight visits, for all the work that would be incorporated into the Committee’s Legacy Report, and for the good work done by Members in their constituencies.

Flooding and disaster management issues
Ms A Steyn (DA) commented on the terrible flooding recently in the North West and asked if the Disaster Management team could be involved in mitigating disasters in the affected areas. She wondered how the Committee would get information on this, given that this was the last week of Parliament.

The Chairperson said the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department) must be able to do something. He said if there were effective extension services within the country, the issue of flooding and access to vaccinations would not have been raised. He regretted that the role of the agricultural extension services within the Country was questionable.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) commented that the Committee Members had taken note of the suffering and urged Members to appeal to everyone to come together to help the people affected.

Ms R Nyalungu (ANC) commented that everyone was affected by the flooding, not only the most directly-affected communities.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) commented that the Committee had been unable to meet with the Disaster Management team last week, due to other Parliamentary work. She said a recommendation should be made to the incoming Committee to question the extension officers on their role in relation to disaster management and flooding.

The Chairperson agreed on this recommendation. He said floods were a serious issue, as they were not only unpredictable, but affected small holder farmers, crops and cattle in several places. He cited an instance of a family in the North West who had lost twenty seven cattle to flooding. He said this issue should also be added in as something to be pursued in the Committee’s Legacy Report.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane made another recommendation, given that this Committee had been unable to meet with Land Bank as it had hoped, that the new Committee should also meet with Land Bank.

The Chairperson commented that this was the last meeting and since there was a quorum, several reports were to be adopted. He asked that Members, when reviewing the draft reports, should comment on typographical and grammatical construction, as well as content.

Draft Committee report on Oversight visit Report to Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) and Agricultural Research Council (ARC)
Ms Steyn asked if the needs of the Agricultural Research Council/ Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) were determined by private organisations or by DAFF. She thought that a recommendation should be made to increase the number of programmes that monitored climate change and climate predications.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee had requested the atlas and compass information from the Soil Department.

Ms Steyn commented that the Soil Information System was not discussed in details in the Report as one of the major internal constraints of the Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ISCW). She said it should be linked to the comment on lack of human capacity in capturing data.

Ms Nokuzola Mgxashe, Content Adviser to the Committee, replied that the challenge of the Soil Information System was already, in the oversight report, linked to the lack of human capacity that prevented regular updates and maintenance of the soil information system.

Ms Steyn added that a specific recommendation should be made to increase the funding for the Agricultural Geo-referenced Information System (AGIS). She added that the Department and extension officers must ensure that information was placed on AGIS.

The Chairperson agreed that the system needed to be financially enhanced. He added that AGIS was functional, but it was necessary to ensure that information reached the provinces. He suggested that the Agricultural Master Plan be discussed in detail in the report.

The Chairperson asked for the current water use level for agriculture.

Ms Nontoeko Qwabe, Committee Researcher, replied that 60% of the country’s water was used for agriculture, followed by mining.

Mr M Cele (ANC) pointed out some typographical corrections.

The Chairperson commented that recommendations could be made to the new Committee on the effectiveness of the water harvesting strategy.

Ms N Twala (ANC) suggested some corrections on grammatical constructions in the report.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) also asked for other grammatical corrections.

The Chairperson asked how information on disasters was communicated to the small scale farmers.

Ms Pilusa- Mosoane replied that local radio stations and newspapers had helped in the past.

Ms Mgxashe replied that information dissemination to small scale farmers was the responsibility of the Department, specifically the extension officers.

Mr Cebekhulu asked for details of the maintenance of the database coarse resolution data, under the topic of “Drought management and monitoring”.

Ms Mgxashe replied that coarse resolution was a technical term in the geographic information system when developing maps. She explained that the resolution related to the sizing of the map. Details could be obtained from the ISCW.

Ms Phaliso recommended that Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) should have a workshop with the new Committee to review some legislation, in order to fast track the system of funding. This workshop should acknowledge and prioritise the needs of small holder farmers, to address the challenges faced.

Ms Steyn recommended that DAFF should assist OVI and ARC in research analysis.

The Chairperson recommended that there was also a need for the Department to collaborate with other departments and other private sector entities, to look into the water harvesting strategies in the country that would favour agriculture.

He said a further recommendation should be added that provincial departments must buy vaccines from the OVI.

The Oversight visit report was unanimously adopted, subject to the amendments suggested.

Committee’s Draft Legacy Report
The Chairperson tabled, and asked Members to comment on, the draft Legacy Report. They discussed matters in groups, as listed below:

Functions of the Committee
Ms Phaliso suggested that the setting out of the mandate of the Committee should be rearranged. Bullet point 2 should be replaced by bullet point 4.

Entities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
The Chairperson commented that Land Bank should be mentioned in the report, and it should be made clear that it did not actually account to the Committee.

Mr S Abram (ANC) suggested that a recommendation be inserted that Land Bank should report its scope of activities to the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture, since its activities were closely related to agricultural functions.

The Chairperson suggested that the interventions considered should be removed from the portion setting out the statistics of Committee activities.

Challenges encountered in the processing of legislation
Ms Steyn commented that it should be noted that the Fertilizers and Feed Bill could not be processed because it was not approved by the Minister.

Ms Phaliso responded that she thought the Bill was delayed by the Committee, not the Minister.

Ms Mgxashe clarified that the Bill was withdrawn by the Minister, because the Committee did not continue with the processing, after there was no response from the Department.

Job Creation
Ms Steyn commented that the Minister was asked to give the Committee the statistics of job creation and this should be mentioned.

Disease outbreaks
Ms Steyn commented that disease outbreaks were not fully discussed in the Report. Currently there was a ban on the importation of horses, due to African horse sickness.

Ms Mgxashe suggested that the last sentence under “Disease outbreak” be rephrased to note the partial ban on the country’s citrus exports, due to citrus black spot (CBS), in some European Union Countries.

Ms Steyn suggested that the sentence on the lifting of the country’s meat restrictions that had been imposed due to foot and mouth disease (FMD) be discussed in more detail.

Ms Mgxashe replied that the lifting of restrictions imposed for FMD was not done fully as there were still some requirements and conditions that the country had to meet before exports would be permitted.

The Chairperson suggested that the sentence be rephrased to “the ban was lifted with conditions”.

Ms Qwabe commented that the FMD lifting was partial, as it was based on the principle of compartmentalization. Carcasses could be exported to certain countries, depending on the country of origin.

Mr van Dalen commented that it was more correctly described as a partial lifting with strict regulations.

Ms Steyn suggested again the inclusion of information on the ban on horse importation, due to African Horse sickness.

Management of Fisheries Research and surveillance vessels
Mr van Dalen recommended that the next Committee should review the Public Protector’s report. It should be included as “Unfinished business” that would need to be passed on to the incoming committee.

Challenges encountered during Committee briefings
Mr Abram suggested that the settlement that had been offered to the former Accounting Officer of the Department, who had been dismissed, should be discussed in detail.

Transformation in the Fisheries sector
Ms Twala said it should be suggested that the new Committee must discuss, with the Department of Labour, a fund or compensation for fishers who died at sea during the course of their work.

The Chairperson recommended collaboration with the Department of Labour on rebates for sea users.

Challenges encountered during Committee oversight visits
The Chairperson commented that the Committee had never encountered any challenge with the National Department during oversight visits, although there had been some difficulty with the provincial departments.

He said that in respect of the visits, it should be noted that a recommendation was required on labour permits for wool shearers.

Challenges experienced by the Committee
The Chairperson noted that the particular challenges in this term of Parliament had included the amalgamation of the three entities dealing with agriculture, forestry and fisheries under a single Department.

Ms Phaliso commented that the transfer of the fisheries function to agriculture had been done piecemeal, as not all aspects were delivered to agriculture simultaneously.

Outstanding Issues for follow-up
Ms Steyn suggested the inclusion of a reference to animal health status and disease outbreaks in the country.

The Chairperson said the redefinition of agriculture and the Maputo Declaration were other issues that had been raised.

Recommendations for the 5th Parliament
Ms Phaliso recommended that the vacancy rate in the Department must be addressed. She also noted that Land Bank should be required to report to the new Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Chairperson commented that Land Bank should go back to the previous Agricultural Control Board system, where a soft loan for farmers was permitted.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
Minutes of meetings held on 11, 12, 19 and 26 February 2014 were unanimously adopted.

Other business
Ms Steyn commented that the reports from the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) on Consumer Protection and Compulsory Specifications must be submitted to the Committee, when they had been finalised.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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