The Deputy Minister of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) drew attention to the increase in exports from South Africa to Asian countries like China, Indonesia and Japan, and highlighted how this relationship had become an important part of South African trade. He also highlighted how trade within the African continent and with developing nations was also very important for the South African economy. Overall, the Department was implementing plans so that South African products were finding their way into the global market.
The Department had been implementing programmes to help small-scale farmers and had even participated in international programmes like the World Food Programme. There had also been focus on agro-processing as a means to create jobs, and job creation programmes to grow the fisheries sector. Forestry was being aided through programmes that promoted the protection and rehabilitation of indigenous forests. There were also plans for climate change assimilation. As a team, the Department was striving towards the social transformation that was needed to make a change.
Some Members expressed concern about the accessibility of resources. For instance, small farmers who needed access to timber were denied access because foreign markets had priority over the resources. The Department was asked if the farmers were actually given opportunities to participate in new markets, and how previously disadvantaged farmers were going to access new opportunities. The Minister had spoken of radical transformation of the sector, particularly wanting to create a holistic view of the sector. However, the sector thus far was dominated by minorities, the minorities being white farmers. This domination by a minority was an apartheid legacy, so how was the Department planning to radically transform previously disadvantaged farmers and help them gain access to the sectors controlled by the minority?
A question that seemed to concern many Members was the Department’s strategy for appealing to young people. If agriculture was going to be used as a main driver of jobs, they were worried that young people would not see it as a possible career and would put it off as something done only by the elderly. The Department responded to these questions by saying that there were many programmes that were meant to attract young people. One of them was using young people who had university degrees in agriculture to engage with other young people, and spark their interest in agriculture. The Department also gave bursaries to those students that were interested in following a career in agriculture. Another important issue during the discussion was educating farmers so that they knew how to use their resources successfully. It was pointed out that real change would not happen unless people understood the market. The Department agreed, and said that they were working on strategies to educate the farmers.
The presentation on marine resources placed most of the emphasis on stopping illegal fishing and reviving the depleted stocks of fish. A key issue throughout the discussion was that many people had the misconception that fish was “boys’ food.” The people needed to be educated that fish was not only a source of food, but that it could be commercialized as well. Members felt that the Department needed to take more action to stop illegal fishing and implement their strategies. The Chairperson expressed dissatisfied that the Aquaculture Bill would take three years to be passed. The Department explained that the Bill would take time because there were certain processes, such as public involvement, which took time, and the Department did not want to have a deadline that they could not accomplish.
Ncera Farms gave a presentation on the status of the farm, indicating that the budget that had been approved by the previous Committee was not enough for innovation and growth. The question of whether to keep or close the farm would be further discussed by the Committee and the Department.
Deputy Minister’s Overview
Mr Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), gave an overview of the political perspective for the Department. He described the increase in exports from South Africa to Asian countries like China, Indonesia and Japan, and highlighted how this relationship had become an important part of South African trade. He also highlighted how trade within the African continent and with developing nations was also very important for the South African economy. Overall, the Department was implementing plans so that South African products were finding their way into the global market. The Department had been implementing programmes to help small-scale farmers and had even participated in international programmes like the World Food Programme. There had also been focus on agro-processing as a means to create jobs, and job creation programmes to grow the fisheries sector. Forestry was being aided through programmes that promoted the protection and rehabilitation of indigenous forests. There were also plans for climate change assimilation. As a team, the Department was striving towards the social transformation that was needed to make a change.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) said that the Department was expected to create jobs, but South Africa was experiencing people asking for more than a job, and for higher and higher wages. It was one thing to create jobs and another to create job opportunities -- and not “opportunities” that created strike after strike. He asked about the longevity of the jobs. He then shifted to the issue of small farmers being treated unfairly. When small farmers wanted to produce raw materials like timber, they were told that the priority in terms of supplying timber was in overseas markets, rather than attempting to supply a government-funded programme. He asked if that was still the policy. When the farmers had been told about this policy, big names had been mentioned and the farmers were told that they had to speak to “so and so” if they wanted to change anything. Overall, he wanted to know the policy for supporting local entities in forestry.
Mr M Mandela (ANC) thanked the Deputy Minister for the presentation, and began by asking the number of previously disadvantaged farmers who had been able to access the export market. He also questioned the number of farmers that had access to trade with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. He asked if the farmers were actually given opportunities to participate in new markets, and wondered how previously disadvantaged farmers were going to access new opportunities. The Minister had spoken of radical transformation of the sector, particularly wanting to create a holistic view of the sector. However, the sector thus far was dominated by minorities, the minorities being white farmers. This domination by a minority was an apartheid legacy, so he wanted to know how the Department was planning to radically transform previously disadvantaged farmers and help them gain access to the sectors controlled by the minority. There were many traditional communities that had forestry as an important component of the community, yet the forestry section was not accessible to these farmers. What was the Department doing to help those communities? Lastly, he wanted to know how the Department planned to implement its strategic plan for 2014-2015.
The Chairperson thanked the Members and passed the floor to the Deputy Minister.
Mr Cele said that one of the issues raised was the number of jobs that the Department was going to create. In one of the programmes they would try to develop around ten thousand hectares that could be used, and which could create eight thousand jobs when an area was finished. He then addressed how the Department would help small business owners. They had a programme that was supposed to transform the sector to ensure that people had access to the necessary materials. They would focus not only on markets that made more money, but assist the local farmer who made money for himself. The Department could intervene very conveniently, and was busy working on transforming the sector.
Mr Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said another issue was that the Department must increase the capacity for beneficiation.
Presentation to the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Ms Edith Vries, Director General of the DAFF, said that she believed that the Department had done a lot to harmonize the three sectors -- agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and had stabilized the leadership between the three. Some of the instability had come from fisheries, which had joined only in 2010.
In her situational analysis, she said a key issue was that there were thousands of hectares of underused arable land that could be put back into production, especially with concerted support for input access, mechanisation services, technical support and linkages to local markets. These thousands of hectares were part of the National Development Plan (NDP). Food security and market access for developing producers had also been noted as challenges. However, there were policies in place, and those policies had been tested. South Africa had also been implementing plans which helped local, as well as international, regions.
She said that Programme 1, Administration, was important in that it sets the targets for the Department. Programme 2, Agricultural Production, Health and Food Security, had interesting programmes in the community. For example, they had services like mobile vets. Programme 3, Food Security and Agrarian Reform, focused on cultivation and education programmes, and Programme 4, Economic Development, Trade and Marketing, focused on agriculture and agro-processing strategy.
Forestry and Natural Resources Management was important, because community forestation was key to certain areas. In the first week in September, which is Arbour Week, they would hand over viable plantations in Kwazulu-Natal.
Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of DAFF, provided a detailed overview of the Department’s budget for each programme, and by economic classification. The total budget for 2014-15 was R6.692 bn, for 2015-16 it was R6.621 bn, for 2015-16 it was R6.674 bn, and for 2016-17 it was R6.979 bn.
Strategic Plan for Marine Resources
Mr Mortimer Mannya, Deputy Director-General: Fisheries Branch, DAFF, gave the presentation on marine resources. He said one of the key components of the strategic plan was the recovery plans for hake, abalone, wild coast rock lobster (WCRL) and line-fish. The goal was to recover depleted stocks by 2018-2019.
The keys to ensuring a prosperous sector were aquaculture and economic development, fisheries research and development, marine resource management, monitoring, control and surveillance, and fisheries operations support. The Chief Financial Officer was responsible for managing the Monitoring, Learning and Research Facility (MLRF). All of the posts but two had been filled.
There was a lot of work to be done to ensure that fishing communities did not see resources pass them by, so one of the goals was implementation of a small-scale fisheries policy. The Department also wanted to have centrepiece legislation to control aquaculture. Part of the objective to coordinate food security was to fight against illegal fishing, which was one of the major threats facing the supply of stock.
Mr M Ntshayisa (AIC) asked whether the Department had a specific budget for small-scale fisheries.
Mr B Joseph (EFF) said he had scrutinised the 2012-2013 Annual Report and subsequent reports, and had noticed that the Department was lacking in respect of implementation its plans. In terms of leadership, he asked who would ensure that the plans were implemented. For example, last year there were three vessels that were docked when they were supposed to be out completing several tasks, such as keeping the ocean waters safe. He wanted to know how the Department would improve the implementation of working vessels in international waters. He also noticed that there were a few posts that were vacant, and wanted to know the number of vacant posts, especially in Fisheries. He asked about the Department’s plans to keep the posts filled.
Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) wanted to know about a report that had been released on 24 June 2014, on the Global Oceans Commission, of which the previous Minister , Mr Trevor Manuel, was a part. She asked what the Department was going to do about the findings. Further, she asked which two departments were in charge of the oceans and implementation of policies, and what the Department was going to do about illegal fishing and poaching. She asked if there were any policies to align the findings to the current problems that the Department was facing.
Mr Mandela referred to the slide that spoke about the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), where agriculture was seen as a key job driver, and wondered how that could be the case, since most young people did not see agriculture as a “cool” career. It was seen as something that elderly people did. As such, he wanted to know the Department’s plan for making agriculture an appealing career for young people. He also wanted to know the Department’s plan for helping smallholder farmers. When he had visited Malawi, he had seen the extraordinary things that the government had done. They called it “one community, one product.” The Malawians prided themselves in supporting farmers and buying products that were local and Malawian. He wanted to know if the Department had a plan like this -- or if it had a plan at all.
He asked how the Department was going to advance food security. People were no longer farming because of the lack of infrastructure -- there were no fences, no proper irrigation and there had been other problems. An agricultural village without fences suffered, because animals like donkeys or sheep pass by and ate the produce. Did the Department have a plan for that type of problem? Through the food programme for smallholder farmers, they are given a 40% allocation of funds, and he wondered why they were not given 100%. If DAFF truly wanted to transform the area, they should be committing to 100%.
If the goal was to ensure profitability and safe production, then people needed to be educated, because this goal could not be achieved if people did not understand the market. For example, in the Western Cape there was plenty of livestock, yet it accounted for only 4% of meat production. He wanted a plan from the Department on educating people on livestock and the market. As for the 10% that is supposed to be set aside for the Maputo Declaration, he wanted to know whether that was being done, and if not, he wanted to know the reasons why. As for the Marine Research presentation, he asked the Department to clarify what it meant by “decreasing stock”, and what was being done to prevent that. He also wanted to know what was being done to educate people on aquaculture, and not have them see fish as “boys’ food.”
Mr T Ramokhoase (ANC) said that integration took time and no one expected it to happen quickly, but experience showed that a plan had to be implemented, and the issues needed to be talked about during the budget analysis to find solutions. As for the unkind treatment of small farmers, he asked about the Department’s strategy to make a difference on the ground. Conditional grants were going to the provinces, but the Department needed to look at how they were being spent. People needed to be satisfied with the way that the government was spending money.
Another important issue was that everyone spoke of agriculture as the key driver of jobs. In the SONA, the President had also emphasized industrialization, so agriculture could be viewed as more than just vegetables, Was there a plan for industrialization and marketability of the agriculture sector, as detailed in the President’s plan?
Mr C Maxegwana (ANC) said that Mr Mandela had raised the issue of agriculture being perceived as something that elders did, and young people were not interested. He also would like clarification on how the Department was going to make agriculture appealing to young people, and make it an economic driver. On issues of water and land, the departments needed to cooperate and not compete with one another. Another point raised by Mr Mandela was the attitude that fish was “boys’ food”. The response was that it was not boys’ food, but the only meal on the table. In poor areas, where people could not reach the sea and they had to cross over to the other side, they were asked to pay a toll -- money they did not have. He asked the Department for their plan on how to make the fishing areas accessible to those communities. There were also townships where cooperatives grow tomatoes, but the cooperatives did not receive much support and so they were not very successful. What was the Department’s plan, if they were serious about turning the cooperatives into commercial successes? The Department spoke about abalone production, but the product was diminishing. He asked about plans to stop poaching and other factors diminishing the supply.
The Chairperson said the conditional grants had been created to help implement the Department’s mandate. However, what was the Department’s plan to implement the conditional grants so that they worked properly? If the intention was to plant on unused land, she what was the Department’s plan for dealing with challenges such as water rights and the availability of land. She was also concerned with the Department meeting its goals, as certain positions were not filled, especially in Fisheries. Lastly, she did not understand why the Department would not have the Aquaculture Bill ready until three years from now. For her, three years was too long.
Minister Zokwana said that giving access to fishing to people in coastal villages was more complex than it seemed. He had noticed that the Department had to recognize traditional institutions in the villages, and talk through them. As for monitoring the areas, the Department needed to make sure that it visited the villages and told them that fish was not “boys’ food,” and that fish was not only good for consumption, but for commercial use as well.
Deputy Minister Cele said that everyone appreciated that the youth wanted to be engineers, doctors and so forth. However, there were also agricultural geniuses. The Department had made a conscious decision to work on social mobilisation, and the government wanted the youth to be part of that social mobilization. They had identified young people who had received higher education in agriculture and invited them to engage with other young people and help them to see that agriculture can be “cool.” There was new methodology, and so when young people asked what they could do in agriculture if they have received an education, the government would show them that agriculture was not only for consumption, but it had great potential for marketability. Food security and access to water were a problem, but the government and the Department were helping people who were working on the land.
As for Mr Mandela’s question, why not shoot for 100%? -- yes indeed, why not! He was not sure, but for things like beans, there was considerable production of that product, but the Department was not sure where the production went. The market needed to be open for people to bring more produce. To counter the idea that fish is food for boys, the government needed to educate the people and there had to be social mobilisation. When his stepmother, who came from inland, moved to their home, she refused to eat fish and accused them of eating snakes. In fact, he did not know that fish could be cultivated until he began his term in Parliament. Consequently, education and social mobilisation was the key.
The problem of water rights, where some people owned the land but someone else owned the water rights, making the land unusable, meant that there must be integration with departments like the water and sanitation department, and all other departments involved. He was not sure who is leading the integration, but it was something that they would work on.
Minister Zokwana said that the information on the vessels that were not functional needed to be updated. All but one vessel were functional.
In his experience, the best way to empower the small-scale farmer was to have them trained by the older, more experienced generation. He had also met youth that did not want to wait until they were old to farm. The Department was trying to make agriculture a “cool” sector. It was also a sector to empower women, because a woman would be able to work and put food on the table.
The Chairperson said that there were many agriculture students without a job. She asked about the Department’s plan for those unemployed young people.
Mr Ramokhoase said that inter-departmental cooperation needed to be looked at again. If need be, there must be laws to make it happen.
Mr Mannya said that the Department did have a budget for small-scale farmers. He confirmed that all vessels but one, the Africana, were out at sea. The Africana was in its 30th year, so the Department was considering replacing it. The vacant positions were below 8%, which he believed was acceptable in the job market. The Department had been working on solving issues dealing with over-fishing, maritime safety and implementing strategy. Seven vessels had been confiscated.
The stocks’ collapse was due to a number of factors. There was over-fishing, which the Department needed to work on controlling. Illegal fishing, which the Department had to fight against, was also a problem. Most importantly, the database needed to be improved so that the Department could have better judgement of stock depletion. There also needed to be public understanding of aquaculture and media support for making aquaculture popular. The Aquaculture Bill would take three years because of the hurdles that the Department had to go through. For example, there had to be public input on the bill, which took time. The Department did not want to be naïve and say that they would be ready by February of next year. There were also fishing communities who lived near marine conservation areas, and those were probably some of the communities that the Committee had asked about. Since they were close to conservation areas, their fishing rights must be restricted, but the government was looking at a plan to help those communities.
Mr Mokutule J Kgobokoe, Director in charge of Food Security and Agricultural Reform, DAFF, said that the Department was working on increasing the production of food in arable land with food staples. In addressing the threat of food insecurity, they were trying to get one million hectares of land under production. By 2018-2019, they wanted to reach that goal. They were working on a strategy to give assistance to people who would work on those lands. There was also a good story regarding South Africa’s contribution to the World Food Programme in the Kingdom of Lesotho. When South Africa agreed to contribute to the fund, the contract stated that 14% of the produce had to come from small-scale farmers. Those farmers not only contributed to the programme, but they were able to produce a substantial amount of maize. This was something commendable, because it showed that small-scale farmers could contribute to the international market.
On the question about young people, when one took a person who had completed a substantial part of their education and asked them what they wanted to be in their professional careers, agriculture was at the bottom of the list. The Department had tried to change this by targeting primary and secondary schools. They had taught children that agriculture was not farming, but that farming was a part of agriculture. Students who were interested in agriculture get a bursary and receive support all the way through university. This approach had produced 1 000 graduates in agriculture.
Ms Vries added to the last comment by Mr Kgobokoe. Last year, the Department had hired a large number of graduates. She acknowledged that there had not been sufficient absorption of graduates from agriculture. However, a lot of people -- like the black wine producers -- had been trained in colleges that specialised in agriculture. Mr Joseph had posed a fair question, and was true that the Department had not complied with all of the goals in the annual report. However, the progress that had been made was within a range that the private sector would find acceptable. The way that the Department targeted resources would make all of the difference. For example, outside Durban airport there was an exciting agricultural village that supplied produce to big chain stores.
She assured Mr Rhamokhoase that there was integration between departments, and shared targets among the branches demonstrated part of that integration. Conditional grants were also being regulated. Provinces meet with the Department and have to present a business plan before any money is allocated. It was true that more work needed to be done, but things had improved.
The Chairperson commented that the Department has done a lot to close the gap between men and women, but she was concerned about the “boys choir” that existed, and the lack of women employed by the Department.
Mr Ntshayisa commented that communities needed to have full use of the resources.
Mr Joseph asked about the fishing rights and the issue that the Department had with failing to provide the licences. He wanted to know how the Department planned to address the problem in the coming year.
Ms Jongbloed asked the Department what they planned to do to reverse depletion in fishing stocks. Further, there has not been a new fishery since 2004. She also wanted information on the status of the experimental fisheries, like the octopus fishery, and why it was still in the experimental stage.
Ms T Tongwane (ANC) said that at the place where she came from, everything was taken off the shelves at stores because there was not enough supply of food. People used the land more as a household than for agriculture activities. Awareness needed to be raised on this issue.
The Chairperson said that the Department needed to make sure that the aid that they provided did indeed help people. There were tools that were supposed to help people, but which had not been utilized. She asked how the Department planned to make sure that those tools were used properly.
Ms Vries responded that the Fisheries branch was started in 2010, and ever since had had no fewer than nine people in charge. The position had advertised twice in 2013, but they had never found suitable candidates. The panel then decided to make a lateral transfer instead of advertising the position for a third time.
Mr Mannya said that the Department did have a plan for fish species that were near extinction and some species had been prioritized. On the question about the octopus, the methods that they had implemented had not worked properly, so they were still researching. The Department was looking for more women to hire.
Ms Vries said, in reply to Ms Tongwane, that maize was not available, and the reality was that in that area the soil was better for livestock farming than crop production. The biodiversity institute told them what crops could be grown, based on soil capability. The Presidential Infrastructure Committee had programmes for agro-logistics and agriculture to tackle under-used land.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and asked for the Ncera farm presentation. She also asked if agreement had been reached with the last Committee. Ms Vries said that they had not made a final decision on what to do with the farms. The Chairperson said she wanted to clarify the situation, so that Members kept that in mind when listening to the presentation.
Mr Mzwamadoda Titimani, CEO, Ncera farms, said the entity had four programmes: Finance & Administration, Mechanisation, Crop Selection and Livestock. He gave the total allocation of funds for each programme. The total amount was R 3 620 000.
He emphasized that the R3.6 million from the Department was not enough, and the farm would have benefited from an increased budget. The money was not enough to do anything but maintain what the farm already had. The farm did not have a five-year plan, because they had to work on a year-to-year basis. They had a dream to provide the Western Cape with the best pork and best livestock and support 18 000 community members. They proved wrong those people who thought they could not bring goats to the coast. However, the Committee had not approved the budget that they needed. The entity thought they would be able to show the Committee that they had improved. However, their dreams had never come to fruition.
Mr Joseph asked if Mr Titimani was the permanent CEO, or if he had been transferred from another position. In terms of the budget for the project, the mandate did not itemize where the money would be allocated. The question was, what would the money be used for?
Ms Jongbloed asked if he was developing a five-year plan, or whether developing a plan depended on what the Committee decided.
Ms Tongwane asked how burdensome it was to have no board and no strategic plan.
Ms Vries said that the farm was in limbo. In the past, the entity had been in real trouble and therefore current decisions had been taken. The acclimations and building could be done; the question was, where should they be located?
The Chairperson asked if Ms Vries had said all that was needed to say.
Mr Titimani nodded in agreement.
The Chairperson said that they would take a break for lunch and convene at 14h30.
The meeting was adjourned.