Avian Influenza; DAFF Quarter 4 performance; DAFF response to Committee concerns

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

01 August 2017
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration (DARDLA) had discarded the tractors it had bought from China because they were meant for soft soil, not the hard soil of Mpumalanga. This was what the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries heard during the discussion when the provincial Department was responding to issues the Committee had raised during its oversight visit to the province. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) also briefed the Committee on its fourth quarter performance report for the 2016/17 period.

The DAFF informed the Committee its focus for the 2014/19 period included ensuring that 13.7 million people with inadequate access to food had sufficient access to safe and nutritious food, and promoting and empowering smallholder producers through targeted support measures to increase their competitive edge towards becoming sustainable producers. Another area of focus was to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of creating one million new jobs by 2030, and to strengthen animal disease and plant pest control capabilities to enhance exports and trade, to conclude trade opportunities with other emerging economies, and to accelerate trade on the African continent.

The Department also reported that a draft commercialisation document and programme to address the commercialisation of 450 farmers (50 per province), was being developed and would be presented to the executive for approval. The National Policy on Comprehensive Producer Development Support (NPCPDS) had been approved for further consultation with intergovernmental structures.

National Treasury, through the National Disaster Management Centre, had made an amount of R212 million available to assist farmers in mitigating drought-induced risks. The DAFF had consulted with the Treasury regarding how the funds would be spent or utilised effectively. It was agreed an indirect grant would be created, allowing the DAFF to spend the funds on behalf of the affected provinces.

The DAFF reported on the avian influenza virus, and said that on 22 June 2017 it had been notified of high mortalities on a breeder flock in the Mpumalanga Province, with the closest town being Villiers in the Free State. Samples collected had yielded positive results for HPAI H5N8. The total number of outbreaks detected to date was ten. All suspected cases were being followed-up immediately, and the following control measures had been imposed immediately: farms were placed under quarantine; eggs were destroyed; affected sites were depopulated; and carcasses, waste material, affected eggs and manure had been contained and would be dealt with to ensure the prevention or spread of the disease. The DAFF was currently obtaining legal and financial advice in order to finalise the compensation policy for these HPAI outbreaks. A ban had been introduced on the sale of live chickens to manage a further spread, but this initial complete ban had affected a number of livelihoods.

The Mpumalanga provincial DARDLA presented responses to issues the Committee had raised during its joint oversight visit to the province, as the Committee had found the information that had been presented was contradictory to what had been presented in the project profiles that had been sent to Parliament. It explained that a number of changes had taken place within the Department, including new programmes for the development of young farmers. However, the issue of tractors bought from China was proving to be a major challenge. An audit had discovered the tractors were irrelevant for the province. As a result, many of them had had to be disposed of, and the old ones that were broken had had to be fixed to work on the soil conditions of Mpumalanga.

The Marapyane College that had been closed around 2010/12 had been re-opened because the Department felt not everyone could go to university to study agriculture. The facility would continue to give farmers and ordinary people much needed agricultural skills, especially those who worked in commercial farming.

Members wanted to know why tractors meant for rural development were not being used by anybody in the Nokaneng region; asked the Department to explain why so many millions of rands had been spent on the unused Marapyane structure and what its future would be; asked for an update on the veterinary facility the Committee had visited; sought an explanation for the Department reducing the number of hectares to be planted; asked about the lease and title problems experienced by the farmers; and raised several questions about the Champagne Citrus Estate.

The DAFF was asked why the commercialisation of smallholder farmers could not be made proportionally instead of the stated 50 per province; why a double payment had been made to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in the first two quarters; why the Department had foreign offices; whether the jobs currently created in the sector were permanent or temporary; and advised the Department to identify state land and to have mentors to train graduates to become producers, just like in Mpumalanga, so that they did not become job-seekers.

Members asked for an update on the avian influenza outbreak regarding the issue of compensation that had been discussed at the previous meeting, because the DAFF had indicated it would discuss the matter with National Treasury. Had poultry farmers and sellers been notified of what to do about the outbreak? What had been the impact on job losses and poultry production, and did the Department have a budget plan to cater for these outbreaks?

Meeting report

Mpumalanga Presentation

Mr Israel Silinda, Chief Director, District Services and Mechanisation: Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration (DARDLA), presented responses arising from the issues raised by the Committee during its oversight visit to the province. The Committee had found that at most of the projects that had been visited, the information presented had been contradictory to what had been presented in the project profiles sent to Parliament. This involved the accreditation status of the training offered to incubatees of the Fortune 40 projects and linkages with institutions of higher learning, the exit strategy for the youth after the training period, the recruitment process, and the payment they were receiving.

The Department said the training that was offered was AgriSeta accredited, with unit standards of 3-4. These were learnership programmes in management and precision agriculture. The Department validated the content and gave approval to the training provider through the incubator before any training was provided. The youth would be assessed at the end of three years and would exit to independently owned farms. The Department, together with the incubator, would play a vital role in ensuring the youth received assistance with resources for their farms, either from the government or the private sector.

He reported that the Department worked with community structures to identify unemployed youth with a passion for agriculture. Once selected, the youth were assisted to register a cooperative through which they would be incubated on and off the farm on how to handle a farming business and conduct business transactions. The recruitment of an incubator was an open competitive bidding process which was advertised in the official government tender bulletin. The bids were evaluated by the bid adjudication committee, which recommended approval by the accounting officer. The incubators were contracted for a period of three years. The incubators were paid an hourly rate of R480 per hour per cooperative and were allocated 160 hours per month. This rate was market related, and was determined by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on consultants' rates guidelines. Each project was monitored by a district coordinator and issues of concern were discussed by the steering committee that monitored the implementation, policy and strategic issues of the programme.

Mr Silinda referred to the provision of a comprehensive report from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Mpumalanga DARDLA, which included the status and revival plans for the Champagne Citrus Estate and Champagne Broiler Development Abattoir, and reported that the Citrus Estate was operational, and the extent of the farm was 400ha. The project specialised in the production of numerous citrus varieties and vegetables. The farm had been restituted to 302 beneficiaries who had failed to run it successfully. It had then been leased on a 70:30 basis to a private farmer and the estate beneficiaries. However, a new proposal being discussed was to change the scale to 40% and 60% to the farmer and the estate beneficiaries, respectively. The contract had been drafted by the Department and was to be signed off by both parties.

The Broiler Development Abattoir was not operational due to an inadequate supply of broilers from local suppliers. The inadequate supply was due to the high cost of production inputs, which had led to most producers operating below capacity. For the abattoir to operate successfully, the Department needed to ensure there was a sustainable supply base from the local farmers. Through the district office, the Department was mobilising all operating and non-operating poultry producers in the Bushbuckridge area to check the available stock and potential of the district. A thorough investigation would be conducted to establish how much it would cost the government to bring these farms to operation.

Concerning the report DARDLA had to submit to Parliament on the availability and use of mobile clinics, including the availability of functional equipment and medicines, the Department reported that there were nine Iveco-size mobile clinics that DAFF had donated and three mobile hospital trucks the province had procured. Equipping these mobile clinics with veterinary equipment and medicines was an on-going process. The mobile clinics were used to reach remote areas where there were limited veterinary services. The clinics still needed veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and 10 additional drivers. The equipping of the Marapyane clinic was in the 2017/18 financial year plans.

Regarding the interpretation of the proclamation for the incorporation of the Lowveld Agricultural College and, by extension, the Marapyane College into the University of Mpumalanga, and whether legal advice had been sought on the matter, the Department indicated no legal advice had been sought from the state law advisers, as the proclamation was without major complications. The Department had, however, picked up the anomaly of the exclusion of the Marapyane campus. The interim council of the university had been engaged, but although there were initial promises that the campus could be included as a special exemption, this had not been the case at the end of the incorporation process. The Department further reported that the Marapyane College had been budgeted for in the 2017/18 financial year. The first phase of the campus resuscitation programme included the appointment of the Director: Structure Agricultural Training (Principal). The position had remained vacant after the incorporation of the Lowveld College of Agriculture into the University of Mpumalanga. When this position had been filled, the province would then be able to fast-track the processes of programme accreditation for farmer training programmes. The accreditation of the diploma programme would not be effected by the province, since this was now in the competence of the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The Department aimed to strengthen Marapyane as a facility for training farmers in grains, dry land farming and livestock. The Elijah Mango College in Kabokweni would focus on the Lowveld areas of the province.

(Tables were shown to illustrate project profiles, their sources of funding, progress implementation and current status, project activities, number of beneficiaries, locations, exit strategies, challenges and remedies).

DAFF: Fourth Quarter Performance
 

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Deputy Director-General: Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, DAFF, informed the Committee that the focus for the 2014/19 period was to ensure that 13.7 million people with inadequate access to food had sufficient access to safe and nutritious food; to promote and empower smallholder producers through targeted support measures to increase their competitive edge towards becoming sustainable producers; to transform the fisheries sector by implementing the Small-scale Fisheries Policy, which would change the socio-economic profile of the sector; and to adhere to new regimes for sustainable forest management. Another area of focus was to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of creating one million new jobs by 2030; implementing the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP); strengthen animal disease and plant pest control capabilities and surveillance measures to enhance exports and trade; and to conclude trade opportunities with other emerging economies and accelerate trade on the African continent.

In his presentation of performance highlights against the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), he reported that of the 300 000 jobs to be created, 42 346 had already been created. Of the one million hectares of unutilised land under production, 290 810 hectares were under production. Of the 80 000 smallholder producers to be supported, 127 399 had been assisted. Of the 152 500 hectares of land under rehabilitation, 102 993 hectares had been rehabilitated. Of the 1.6 million households benefiting from food security and nutrition initiatives, only 702 653 had been supported.

With regard to performance highlights against Quarter 4 targets, he said the strategic risk register at branch level and the risk management strategy for 2017/18 had been reviewed and were ready for implementation. These documents ensured effective implementation of the risk management process.
The quarterly human resources (HR) plan implementation report had been developed. The plan was developed to guide and assist the Department to set out how to identify skills, address supply and demand issues, attract, develop and nurture the workforce so as to be responsive to service delivery challenges.

An external quality assurance review (QAR) had been conducted on the internal audit function, and it had received a general compliance (GC) rating. This was the highest rating that an internal audit unit could achieve in a QAR. The Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) 2016 challenge phase, which had closed on 10 February 2017, had indicated a slight improvement in most of the key performance areas (KPAs). DAFF had developed improvement plans per KPA to address the variances.

The Climate Change Plan had been implemented through vulnerability mapping for conventional farming systems, and the report on implementation had been compiled. The main aim of the plan was to minimise the risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change by increasing the resilience of production systems (adaptation), reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) in the sector, and ensure food security.

The draft Forestry Grant Fund framework had been developed. The agro-forestry strategy framework with implementation plan had been approved by the executive committee (EXCO). A discussion document on Reducing Emissions from forests’ Degradation and Deforestation Plus (REDD+) had been developed. A project to support revitalisation of irrigation schemes had been implemented. The revitalisation of irrigation schemes focused on the upgrading and development of the infrastructure and maximised the economic feasibility of the scheme.

The progress report on the continuous conditioning of brood stock had been compiled. The conditioning of brood stock was based on two new research studies on genetics and nutrition for aquaculture species. Brood stock was a parent stock used for breeding. They were usually collected from the wild, such as the sea/rivers etc. Their ovum and sperm were fused to give offspring that were grown out to size in aquaculture facilities. Permit conditions had been reviewed and permits and licences had been issued in the six fishing sectors  -- tuna & swordfish longline, Kwa-Zulu Natal beach seine, net fish, seaweed, horse mackerel and Patagonian tooth fish.

Pertaining to emerging issues, he reported that a draft commercialisation document and programme was being developed and would be presented to the executive for approval. The programme was to address the commercialisation of 450 farmers (50 per province). The National Policy on Comprehensive Producer Development Support (NPCPDS) had been approved by EXCO for further consultation with the intergovernmental structure.

The presence of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus had been confirmed in commercial poultry in South Africa on 22 June 2017. This was the first outbreak of HPAI in chickens in the country. Four outbreaks had been confirmed on commercial poultry farms as follows:
A breeder flock close to Villiers within Mpumalanga province;
A layer farm in Val, within Mpumalanga province;
A layer farm in the south of Johannesburg, Gauteng province;
A layer farm close to Leandra within Mpumalanga province.

The H5N8 Avian Influenza (AI) was also confirmed in wild birds at two locations -- one in Mpumalanga province and the other one in the Gauteng province. The effect on the poultry industry was potentially devastating. In order to improve traceability, measures had been put in place to register buyers and sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered abattoir.
The National Treasury, through the National Disaster Management Centre, had made an amount of R212 million available to assist farmers in mitigating drought-induced risks. The DAFF had consulted with the National Treasury with regard to how the funds would be spent or utilised effectively. It was agreed that an indirect grant would be created, allowing the DAFF to spend the funds on behalf of the affected provinces. Out of this allocation, an amount of R4 million had been set aside for operational costs.
The Department’s future plans for drought included:
Establishing integrated institutional capacity and support at all levels of government;
Increasing awareness and preparedness on impending disasters;
Reducing disaster risks through appropriate research plans;
Developing risk reduction and mitigation plans;
Establishing and implementing response, recovery and rehabilitation programmes;
Implementing education, training and communication plans;
Establishing an effective early warning system and improving information dissemination

Avian Influenza: Presentation

Dr Botlhe Modisane, Chief Director, Animal, Plant, Health and Food Safety: DAFF, informed the Committee the avian influenza virus was shed in faeces and respiratory secretions of infected birds. The virus could be spread through direct contact with the secretions of infected birds or through contaminated water and feed. Wild water birds were reservoirs of the avian influenza virus, and it could be transmitted through wild birds and their migratory routes. The virus may also be carried on fomites -- farm equipment and clothing of people that came into contact with infected material.

On 22 June 2017, the DAFF was notified of high mortalities on a breeder flock in Mpumalanga, with the closest town being Villiers in the Free State. Samples collected had yielded positive results for HPAI H5N8. The total number of outbreaks detected to date was 10 -- four outbreaks on commercial farms, three outbreaks in wild birds, one outbreak in birds kept as a hobby, and two outbreaks in backyard chickens.From further sequencing and genetic analysis results by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC)-Onderstepoort Veterinary Research, the first outbreak close to Villiers and the second one in Val appeared to be two separate introductions to the country. The first outbreak in Villiers was more related to an Egypt outbreak strain, with a 1% difference between the Egypt strain and this South Africa strain. The second outbreak in Val was related to the Zimbabwean isolate, with less than a 1% difference.

On actions taken so far, he reported that all suspected cases were being followed-up immediately. The following control measures had been immediately imposed:- farms were placed under quarantine;- eggs were destroyed;- depopulation of affected sites;- carcasses, waste material, affected eggs and manure had been contained and would be dealt with to ensure prevention of the spread of the disease and to prevent contamination of the environment;- on the hobbies farms, ducks had been culled and all the other birds were being kept under quarantine and clinical observation.The DAFF was currently obtaining legal and financial advice in order to finalise the compensation policy for these HPAI outbreaks. A ban had been introduced on the sale of live chickens to manage a further spread, but this initial complete ban had affected a number of livelihoods. The ban had been modified, with conditions placed for the sale and distribution of live culls. Neighbouring countries had opened trade of meat, eggs and chicken from compartments with high bio-security measures and monthly AI monitoring.

(Figures were shown to illustrate the economic impact and job losses at affected farms)

Discussion

Mpumalanga Presentation

The Chairperson wanted to know what the problem was regarding the tractors meant for rural development which were not used by anybody in the Nokaneng region.Mr Silinda said that Nokaneng had been identified as a site for keeping the tractors. Some of the tractors were not for rural development, and others were going to be disposed of. There were tractors they had received from DAFF which had been bought by the provincial Department’s equitable share and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). There were 15 tractors in total. Four were operational, eight of them were going to be disposed of , and three were going to be repaired. There were six tractors from DRDLR which farmers were not allowed to use, as they were meant for cotton farmers.

Mr Vusi Shongwe, Member of the Executive Committee (MEC), DARDLA, added that the issue of tractors had not been properly coordinated. The tractors, which had been bought from China, were not suitable for the province. They were meant for soft soil, not the hard soil of Mpumalanga. The province was building two tractor sites in Nkangale and Gert Sibande to up-skill the farmers. The Department did not have the capacity to manage the tractors, and one would find that a tractor had been dysfunctional for six months because of a starter problem. Proper management of the tractors would help turn Mpumalanga green.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked the Department to explain why so many millions had been spent on the unused Marapyane structure, and what its future would be.Mr Shongwe said that the R50 million investment in the facility should not be seen as waste. The agricultural facility could still be used. If it was incorporated into the Department of Higher Education, the provincial department was going to fight to the bitter end. The college was not supposed to be abolished at the expense of the university, and let people with indigenous knowledge of agriculture suffer. The Department would compile information on the investment made and the money spent, and would forward the information to the Committee in writing.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked for an update on the veterinary facility the Committee had visited. She wanted to know what had made the Department reduce the number of hectares to be planted. She asked the Department to explain about the lease and title problems experienced by the farmers, and wanted to know who had drafted the documents for the meeting because it appeared the  information the Committee had received in Mpumalanga during the oversight visit was different from the one presented in the Committee meeting.

Dr M Dakada, Chief Director, Farmer Support and Development: Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, responded on the issue of the Marapyane veterinary facility, saying that everything had been put into one tender in terms of renovations. On hectares that had been reduced, he said this was due to the Phezukomkhono project which had replaced the Masibuyele Emasimini project, which had had high targets because it was getting funding from Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP). Seeing that they no longer got funding, the targets had dropped. Their targets were informed by available resources. Another issue that had contributed was the price of diesel. Concerning leases for the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), the biggest challenge they had in the province was that agriculture and rural development were not working together. Now the two departments were trying to sort out together the lease agreements for the PLAS and to assist farmers in making sure they received all the support for their farms to be productive. With regard to the drafting of documents, he said the discrepancies in figures had been noted and the matter would be corrected. Figures providing the breakdown from 2011 to the current period would be forwarded to the Committee in writing.

Mr N Capa (ANC) wanted to know what the plans were for the Nguni Cattle Project, and enquired why the bulk of the money went to the mentors.

Mr Shongwe said the Department was still going to do an audit about the number of cattle in the Nguni Cattle Project. The audit would be done by an independent assessor, not by the officials of the Department.

Dr Dakada, with regard to mentors and the payment of fees, said that when rural development had to recap, farmers had been given mentors who had been paid R5 000. The DRDLR would be asked to provide the Committee with the correct information.

Mr H Kruger (DA) remarked that when he had passed through the Nokaneng region on Mandela Day, all the tractors had been removed. There had been only four or five there, and he was surprised that the Department knew nothing about that. He further indicated that on the north east of Nokaneng there was a maize mill, but nothing was happening there. He said that the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development had visited 13 cooperatives in Mpumalanga, and he wondered if the Department knew about its damning report on the visit. He went on to say money was being pumped into development, but that it was disappearing from the system.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) wanted to find out if a strategic partner had been involved when the Champagne Citrus Estate had been established, and if it was this strategic partner that was involved in the 70:30 scale of leasing. He asked why the Department had allowed this to happen. He also remarked the lease had expired for the Vukuzenzele non-profit organization (NPO), and the Department was still waiting for the DRDLR to come back to them about the matter. This meant the Department had not listened to the Committee when it said the matter should be attended to urgently. He further pointed out the Marapyane veterinary clinic was a nice structure, and the only thing not completed when the Committee was there had been electrification. The Department had promised to transfer people who were making use of a make-shift structure for veterinary services to the new facility, but nothing had been done so far. He said the Department was economic with the truth, and asked it to provide an update on the Huntington Packhouse. Finally, he told DAFF there was a problem in the monitoring of conditional grants, because it monitored 50% of conditional grants nationally, but it did not monitor the other 50% of the province.

Dr Dakada responded that the Department had not been involved in the Huntinton Packhouse project from the beginning. Because it was already there, the Department was making interventions and engaging with the farmers on how to revitalise it as a consolidation centre. Concerning the 70:30 lease scale, he said they had come to the conclusion there were other partners who were involved in the matter, but the Department was not party to those agreements and would not agree to that because of the investments it had made.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) wanted to find out how long the lease for the Champagne Citrus Estate was, and who was getting money from the lessee. He also wanted to establish who appointed the strategic partners, because they ended up living off the communities without passing on the knowledge of managing the farms. He further asked what the Department was doing to empower elders who were practising indigenous knowledge of agriculture in rural communities. Lastly, he wanted to know what the future plans were for students graduating from agricultural colleges, and whether they could possibly be placed on land purchased by the Department for agriculture.

Mr Shongwe said the Champagne Citrus Estate lease was the responsibility of the DRDLR, not the Department of Agriculture. On strategic partners, he explained that the Agriculture Department did not have strategic partners, only incubators and mentors. The DRDLR was the only department that could answer questions on strategic partners. Regarding community elders practising indigenous knowledge in agriculture, he informed the Committee that Cotton SA had given farmers in Nkomazi certificates. There were commodity groups they worked with to up-skill indigenous farmers. The opening of the Marapyane College would help them to focus on farmer training and giving them practical training.

Dr Dakada, with regard to agriculture graduates being placed on land purchased for agriculture, said that any land that was lying fallow was being developed to get youths to till it or work on it. Through Fortune 40, they had come up with land infrastructure and had got the youths to work on this land. However, it had to be remembered the the agriculture sector was not attractive to the youth.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) remarked the Department should understand veterinary service was one pillar that made agriculture complete, so it should create space to fill the vacancies or the livestock would remain affected. He said he saw strategic about the strategic partners that were being paid R5 000 per month. Their input said nothing. It could be that they were consultants, but their income was similar to that of domestic workers.

The Chairperson commented that the way the officials and MEC were responding to questions indicated that they were not ready for the meeting. The Committee wondered if they had been with them during the oversight visit. The information they had presented to the Committee was different from that presented to the Committee during the oversight visit. It appeared that the officials were not taking the Committee seriously. On policy imperatives, the sector was not moving. Everyone was doing his or her own thing. Concurrent functioning meant the national and provincial governments should be working together. This matter of monitoring 50% of the national conditional grant, and not monitoring the 50% of the  provincial conditional grant, was not working. Agriculture could move forward only if the people in the sector started working together. The DAFF should take the meetings seriously when the Committee invited the MEC to account before it. The monitoring of a provincial agriculture department by the Committee meant it was monitoring the DAFF. She added that when Mpumalanga had launched the Masibuyele Emasimini project, Mpumalanga had been doing very well, but when the President had set targets, the Mpumalanga Agriculture Department had reduced the number of hectares to be planted. That was not understandable.

Mr Shongwe said he had had a few meetings with the top management and had visited projects in the Pixley ka Seme region. They had been some disagreements with some senior managers there. The reason was that the road to these projects was in a bad condition and not usable, making it difficult for farmers and those involved in the project to make use of it. The issues the Committee was raising were issues he had raised with the Department. Another issue he had raised with the Department was that of commercial farmers. They had introduced a new programme to improve the roads used by commercial farmers because they could not be ignored just because the Department was busy developing new farmers. The commercial farmers had the experience they did not have as the government. With regard to the exit strategy for incubatees, he indicated the strategy had not been thoroughly considered. The exit strategy of three years was unfair, because the incubatees entered at different times and stages. He added that the Cabinet was still fighting about the moratorium on veterinarians to the bitter end. Discussions were still continuing.

Mr Skhosana ka Mahlangu, Mpumalanga Chairperson of Committees, told the Committee they were interacting with the Department, and had taken note of the questions posed by the Committee, but it appeared the answers that had been provided were not the same as the ones given in the province during the oversight report. He said Fortune 40 was one programme they thought was going to take the province far if it was well monitored. For example, the indigenous knowledge from the elders should be recognised, and the bare land that was not being taken care of was not going to take them anywhere in fighting poverty and youth unemployment. On the exit strategy of the incubatees, he said the state could not incubate an individual forever. If a person had to be in a programme for three years, then that person must exit the programme on completing it. The matter regarding the shortage of veterinarians had been discussed at the committee level, and there was a moratorium for employing these people in the province, but this had to be debated in the committee.

The Chairperson, in closing, asked the officials to take the report back to the Department and clarify issues that had arisen during the discussions with the Committee. The Committee met with the DAFF quarterly and the Department should give the corrected information to the DAFF to present to the Committee on its behalf. She also asked the Department to forward the Committee a detailed report on agriparks. She reminded the Department that it was important to come to the Committee prepared and not to present inaccurate information, because that reflected badly on the Department, for it had to spend money to appear before the Committee. Lastly, the Department was asked to forward the Committee a breakdown on the payment of incubators and incubatees.

Avian Influenza presentation

Mr Maloyi remarked the update had been about one affected farm. He asked what the update was regarding the issue of compensation that had been discussed at the previous meeting, because the DAFF had indicated it would discuss the matter with National Treasury.

Mr Ramasodi stated they had written to the Director-General of National Treasury and had sent follow-up correspondence to indicate there would be unavoidable expenditure. They had requested an amount of R23 million, which also could increase. The outbreak was showing the blind spot of how they used their disaster funding.

Ms Steyn wanted to know the number of birds and eggs that had been disposed of. She also wanted to find out if poultry farmers and sellers had been notified of what to do about the influenza outbreak, and asked who was helping the Department to address the matter.

Dr Modisane said 613 000 hens had been killed or culled. With regard to notices to poultry farmers and sellers, it was the members of the public who got the messages and submitted the information to the Department. Regarding who was helping DAFF in managing the influenza, he reported that 256 veterinarians were helping in the management of the disease, including those veterinarians who were doing compulsory community service.

Mr S Mncwabe (NFP) asked if it was only the provinces of Mpumalanga and Gauteng that were affected, and what measure were in place to ensure the influenza did not spread to other provinces.

Dr Modisane reported there were no other provinces affected and that veterinary services have been consulted to advise on any outbreak that may happen or was suspected.

Mr Capa asked what the impact of the influenza was on job losses and poultry production.

Dr Modisane indicated that farms that had been affected contributed about 1% of production, and that there was going to be a knock-on effect on broiler production. All eggs in affected hatcheries had to be destroyed. Egg production had gone down by 190 000. The four affected farms had lost 240 jobs.

The Chairperson commended the Department for managing to contain the spread of the virus. She wanted to know what opportunities they could refer to in managing the virus better, or which opportunities this outbreak had presented. She also wanted to establish the impact of the outbreak on consumption by humans.

Dr Modisane said they were trying to see how to improve bio-security matters to prevent a recurrence of the influenza on the affected farms. As a country, they had never seen or experienced an outbreak of this virus before. They needed to consult and see how they could provide compensation and help to affected smallholder farmers so that they could re-establish themselves. Pertaining to the impact of the influenza on human consumption, he said it did not affect human beings. However, from an ethical point of view, the Department agreed the dead birds or eggs should not be removed from the affected sites.

Mr Ramasodi added that the Department had had a discussion on how to re-ignite the poultry industry. This disease had affected the four outcomes of the Department.

Mr Cebekhulu said there was an ordinary chicken disease that had been found in backyard chickens in Newcastle. He wanted to know how safe these chickens were, because people in rural areas used aloe and potassium permanganate to treat this disease.

Dr Modisane said the Newcastle virus was not linked to the avian flu. There were vaccines that could be used to prevent the disease. The Newcastle disease could kill many chickens.

Mr Capa asked if it was possible to advise unaffected farmers in other provinces to intensify their poultry production so that there was no shortage of eggs and white meat.

Dr Modisane said this was what the DAFF was preaching to poultry producers, to improve on bio-security. The challenge was to prevent affected sparrows from entering the chicken-runs and then infecting backyard chickens, or those of smallholder farmers.

Ms Steyn enquired if the Department had got a plan in terms of a budget to cater for these outbreaks.

Mr Jacob Hlatshwayo, Chief Financial Officer: DAFF, said the Department had a budget for the mitigation of disasters, but it was not enough. The budget had been around R65 million. They had spoken with Treasury to increase the budget for disasters.

DAFF Fourth Quarter Performance Presentation

Mr Maloyi asked if the Committee could be informed of why there was a new Director-General (DG) in the Department. Why was the DAFF sending a big delegation to the Committee if it had a meagre budget of R6.8 billion? He asked why the commercialisation of smallholder farmers could not be made proportionally, instead of stating 50 per province.

The Chairperson, on the issue of the new DG, explained the Committee had received a letter from the DAFF that the DG had been suspended. The Committee was expecting the Minister to explain the matter.

Mr Ramasodi, regarding the big delegation, said that when they had appeared at their last meeting before the Committee, the Committee had indicated it would like to have a direct interaction with the deputy director-generals of the relevant programmes. However, if the Committee was of the view that DAFF must scale down, then it would do that.

Mr Bonga Msomi, Chief Director, National Extension Support Services: DAFF, reported they could have done better on the project for the commercialisation of farmers. They had developed the document and given the provinces criteria. In going forward, they would involve the Land Bank and other stakeholders.

Mr Mncwabe enquired why a double payment had been made to the ARC for the first and second quarters. He also wanted an explanation on why the Department had foreign offices.

Mr Hlatshwayo explained that the reason for the double payment to ARC in April and August had been based on a request by ARC to assist them with their cash flow. Other entities such as the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF) had asked for the same arrangement, where vessels and aquaculture money had been paid once in April, while Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) money was paid quarterly with the purpose of assisting with the cash flow of the institution.

Ms Kwena Komape, Acting Deputy Director-General, Economic Development, Trade and Marketing (EDTM): DAFF, responded on the issue of foreign offices, and explained that DAFF had nine representatives at offices abroad. The offices represented DAFF and were housed and paid allowances by DIRCO, which then submitted invoices to DAFF. DAFF then paid DIRCO back.

Ms Steyn wanted to establish at what point the Department would validate what the money had been spent on, because it validated the money spent but did not validate what it had been spent on. What was visible on the ground was just the opposite of what had been paid. When it came to the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), the Department looked at only 50% of what was happening on the ground.

Mr Joe Kgobokoe, Deputy Director-General, Policy, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation: DAFF, said that they had a database of CASP projects, including the business plans for these projects. When they visited them, they looked at the business plans, and after that they drafted a report. More could be done in terms of visiting more projects, but due to budget and human capacity constraints many projects could not be visited. In the reports they produced, pertinent issues were raised and recommendations were submitted to the HODs of the provinces to ensure value for money on the projects implemented.

Mr Capa wanted to establish what had been done so far to ensure the risk management plan was implemented, seeing that there were capacity and budget constraints.

Ms Komape said that even to date, there was no human capacity in the department. They were going to see how much they were going to get from Treasury regarding core areas.

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) wanted to find out what the constraints were in failing to achieve certain targets, and asked what the outcomes were for the 69 criminal investigations by the Department.

Mr Kgobokoe, with regard to constraints to achieve targets, said that this was a difficult area to manage. The management of the performance information was problematic, because there were different reporting time frames. The Department was working hard to bring everybody together to report at the same time. This could be achieved by having a working committee that could work with the people together in terms of reporting and coordinating information in time.

Regarding the criminal investigations, an official from the Department said the investigations were dealing with rights holders breaking the law, such as catching wrong species and wearing the wrong gear, human trafficking, drugs and catching abalone. Two of these cases were with the NPA. The information was currently kept confidential, to assist with the arrest of perpetrators.

The Chairperson asked if the jobs currently created in the sector were permanent or temporary. She wanted to establish if the new statistics information had reached the provinces, and if not, when it would be communicated to provinces.

Ms Komape said 42 000 jobs had been created in the sector. A detailed breakdown of permanent and temporary jobs would be sent to the Committee. The new statistics information had not yet reached the provinces. The Department had invited Stats SA to share information on the new statistics. She said SA had the most robust social grants. All these programmes, including the Department of Science and Technology (DST) programmes, contributed to the programmes the Department was busy with, especially on food security and the Fetsa Tlala food programmes.

Mr Maloyi commented that the Minister had confirmed the Department would deliver on the commercialisation programme. This indicated that this would not be completed during this period. The Department needed to plan properly, as this was an important target that needed to be met. When a President made a pronouncement, the Department must be ready to deliver. He also asked who the Department was making its recommendations to, and wanted to know if the Department was still distributing fodder to the North West province.

Mr Ramasodi, on the commercialisation programme, said it was important to accept the challenges they were facing as a Department. Members should remember that when the commercialisation was introduced, provinces were already doing something. There were already guidelines in place. Regarding recommendations, he indicated that recommendations were made to the management of the Department of what needed to be done. Pertaining to fodder distribution, he pointed out there was no distribution taking place currently. However, this did not mean DAFF was not concerned about this. There had been constant communication with the provinces regarding the declaration of areas affected by drought.

Ms Steyn asked the Department why it was being charged exorbitant fees for boreholes and fencing. There were far better ways of fencing the two, because she had made an investigation on the ground. She also wanted to know if the drought plan was still going to be part of the climate change plan.

Dr Moshibudi Rampedi, Deputy Director-General, Forestry and National Resources: DAFF, requested the Committee to forward DAFF with details so that it could investigate from the provinces. He also indicated the drought plan would be part of the climate change plan. It had been decided that it must be a comprehensive plan that was able to adapt to the conditions of the sector.

The Chairperson asked the Department to update the Committee on the 30% procurement by smallholders from the system, and wanted to know what it was doing to protect agriculture graduates from the colleges that were being closed down or integrated into universities, so that they did not become job seekers when there was so much work to be done.

Dr Rampedi said that the 30% set aside was a matter that was being presented to the Cabinet Lekgotla on what needed to be done. There were inputs that had been sourced from other departments and stakeholders. With regard to graduates, he said the Department would need to have a response from the branch that dealt with the absorption of graduates into the system, and this also involved a discussion on the structure of the Department.

Mr Msomi added they had an internship programme for a year, where graduates were placed in different sections of the Department. They were working on the absorption programme so that they could be placed at smallholder farms. They had had a discussion with the HR unit so that when the interns finished their time, they could be given first preference in filling the vacancies of the Department.

Mr Maloyi asked the Department to update its documents when came to present to the Committee, because some of the information it had shared with the Committee was a repetition of what had been presented in March.

The Chairperson advised the Department to identify state land and have mentors to train graduates to become producers just like in Mpumalanga, so that they did not become job-seekers. Upon identifying the state land to be used for agriculture, the Department should then cut the CASP grant to support these graduates. The DAFF’s duty was to implement and practicalise things. There was a need to do things differently and to attend to the issues that were raised.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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