Planting Season state of readiness: National & Provincial Agriculture Departments

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

17 October 2017
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries together with eight provincial agriculture departments briefed the Portfolio Committee on their state of readiness for the 2017/18 planting season.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) informed the Committee there has been a decline in the number of people with inadequate access to food. The percentage of households with limited access to food decreased from 23.9% in 2010 to 22.3% in 2016. The percentage of individuals with limited access to food decreased from 28.6% in 2010 to 24.9% in 2016. Between 2002 and 2015, the percentage of households that experienced hunger decreased from 23.8% to 11.8% while individuals decreased from 29.3% to 13.4%. Although food access has improved, vulnerability to hunger has increased in 2016. It said the state of readiness for the five provinces of Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Limpopo, Free State, and Mpumalanga is standing at 82.46%.

The Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture said it is focusing on four commodities distributed across all four regions and this is informed by the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP). During October 2017, the department launched the planting season of Phezukomkhono Mlimi food security programme in all four regions. To date, the province has planted 14000 hectares for the 2017/18 period. It has met its targets.

The Western Cape Agriculture Department reported all agricultural production sectors are under heavy strain. The Western Cape has experienced sustained agricultural disasters which have led to both environmental as well as biological impacts. The disasters have affected most of the province and significantly altered the sector’s agricultural production. The Department of Water and Sanitation has curtailed the use of agricultural water by 50% during September 2017. Up to now, the department has planted 1818.4 hectares of grain only.

The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture said that animal and animal products contribute 49%; field crops 25%, and horticulture 26% in the agricultural make-up of the province. 114 000 hectares of land are under irrigation. Main crops include summer grains, winter cereals, lucerne, wine, dry, and table grapes. The province plants wheat and oats as winter crops which are being harvested closer to December. This project creates 80 jobs during the planting and harvesting season. 409 hectares of wheat are under irrigation. During summer the province plants maize which it harvests closer to May and June. This project creates plus minus 80 jobs. 703 hectares of maize are under irrigation.

The Free State Agriculture Department indicated the Fetsa Tlala Programme of 2017/18 would assist 22 farmers to plant 2030 hectares of maize. Six farmers would be assisted to plant 560 hectares of soya beans, and one farmer would be assisted to plant 100 hectares of sunflowers. The department has committed itself to enhance production and improve the genetic make-up of the current herd by providing livestock to 17 farmers – 460 cattle, 348 pigs, and 6 600 chickens (broilers and layers). The province plans to plant 5 196 hectares during the 2017/18 period.

The Eastern Cape Agriculture Department reported all six districts of the province are ready for the planting season. The OR Tambo region has the lowest figure of 75%, while the Sarah Baartman region has the highest figure of 90% readiness. The Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani, and Joe Gqabi districts are 80% ready and Amathole is 85%. The mechanisation programme is concentrating on local farmers and individuals that have their own tractors. It noted that the system of using government tractors for big areas has proven not to work, but works only on household gardens. The contribution of farmers to mechanisation is working very well because it has increased targeted areas. Procurement or contracting for production inputs was completed by the 20 October 2017. Input suppliers are contracted for three years, and the department is very strict on contract management.

The KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture Department reported it has ring-fenced R56 million for crop production for the 2017/18 period. It is targeting to plant 13 504 hectares of maize, while 6 200 and 1 200 hectares are for dry beans and vegetable production, respectively. All the districts are said to be ready for the planting season. Ugu has got the lowest rating of 60%, while Amajuba and uMkhanyakude are at 80%. The total number of hectares targeted for planting is 20 904 with 11 847 beneficiaries.

The Limpopo Agriculture Department said it has adopted food production support through Fetsa Tlala. The focus is on staple food crops such as maize, sorghum and beans. Ilima Letsema is the source of funding for production inputs and mechanisation. The department aims to reduce the number of households vulnerable to food insecurity by 9.5% by 2019/20. The province has targeted at least 13 006 hectares to be under production for 2017/18. The level of readiness by the province is at 83%.

The Gauteng Agriculture Department indicated it is ready for 2017/18. The targeted farmers and grain producing farmers have taken advantage of the current rains and are working the lands in preparation for planting. The department is targeting to plant 2 600 hectares of maize and dry beans. The procurement process for production inputs is unfolding and would be ready for distribution in time for the planting season.

Members asked how many tractors are in good working condition and what the number is of outsourced and private tractors; if the drought resistant maize seed has been planted or is being considered for planting; about AgriParks; how the beneficiaries have been identified because there is an increase in the number of households to be supported for ploughing; the baseline on support given to households and hectares planted. There was a concern that some provinces such as Gauteng had not secured their service level agreements with service providers for production inputs. They commented that the MECs and accounting officers of the provincial departments should accompany their delegation to answer relevant questions that only they could answer.

The Chairperson said the Director General should ensure there is planning between the national and provincial departments to grow the sector. This means things should be coordinated. The Committee wants to see progress in the sector. The decisions of MinMec have to be implemented. She indicated that Members are going to get telephone calls from communities and individuals saying they have not received assistance from their provincial departments. The Chairperson commented about Limpopo that it is important to appreciate the work that is being done for people affected by food security.

Meeting report

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) presentation
Dr Jemina Moeng, Chief Director for Food Security: DAFF, informed the Committee there has been a decline in the number of people with inadequate access to food. The percentage of households with limited access to food decreased from 23.9% in 2010 to 22.3% in 2016. The percentage of individuals with limited access to food decreased from 28.6% in 2010 to 24.9% in 2016. Between 2002 and 2015, the percentage of households that experienced hunger decreased from 23.8% to 11.8% while individuals decreased from 29.3% to 13.4%. Although food access has improved, vulnerability to hunger has increased in 2016. It said the state of readiness for the five provinces of Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Limpopo, Free State, and Mpumalanga is standing at 82.46%.

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate figures on access to food vs hunger; national and provincial distribution of individuals with inadequate and severely inadequate access to food; provincial performance for 2016/17 planting season; hectares targeted vs hectares achieved per province from 2013 to 2016; and 2017/18 provincial targets)

Mpumalanga presentation
Mr Vusi Shongwe, MEC: Mpumalanga Agriculture Department, said his department is focusing on four commodities distributed across all four regions and this is informed by APAP. During October 2017, the department launched the planting season for Phezukomkhono Mlimi in all four regions. To date, the province has planted 14 000 hectares for the 2017/18 period. It has met its targets.

The department is promoting a fully fledged value chain in both animal and vegetable production and new farming methods such as tunnels and use of drip irrigation for intensive farming and water saving, respectively. It is trying to intensify the introduction of the drought resistant commodities to more farmers to address the drought that affects production. The province is currently receiving good October rains and this is conducive for kick-starting the planting season. These rains are very important for the Nkangala area because its planting season is shorter and the annual rainfall is the lowest.

Mr Shongwe said in the areas of Nkangala and Gert Sibande, where there is a high expansion of mines, the focus is to collaborate with the mines for agricultural production on rehabilitated land. Another focus is on high value crop under intensive farming methods. In most parts of Nkangala and Ehlanzeni, the department provides drought resistant seeds. As there are low annual rainfalls in some parts of Nkangala and Dr JS Moroka region, the strategy has to focus on livestock and broiler production.

Procurement for all production inputs has been concluded and inputs have been distributed to all beneficiaries. The province has added private mechanisation to supplement the departmental fleet in order to achieve the targets. It envisages reaching its 100% target before the end of the third quarter. The department is strengthening the involvement of commercial farmers in the development of the agricultural sector in the province.

They are implementing the off-take agreements within the Government Nutrition Programme, including Education, Health and Correctional Services sectors to ensure a sustainable and reliable market for all produce after harvesting. The agro-processing value is being improved through the establishment of Agrihubs in each district to enhance access to markets by farmers. The production capacity in communal land is enhanced by including and involving full participation by traditional leaders in their own space. The department has engaged with traditional leadership for the use of communal land for tilling and feeding people.

(Tables and figures were shown to illustrate the production capacity of the province; state of readiness; financial implications; and agro-ecological zones)

Western Cape presentation
Ms Joyene Isaacs, HOD: Western Cape Agriculture Department, told the Committee all agricultural production sectors are under heavy strain. The Western Cape has experienced sustained agricultural disasters which have led to both environmental as well as biological impacts. The disasters have affected most of the province and significantly altered the sector’s agricultural production. The Department of Water and Sanitation has curtailed the agricultural water use by 50% during September 2017. Up to now, the department has planted 1 818.4 hectares of grain only.

The department is utilising various data sources to estimate the economic contribution of irrigated farming
Two scenarios were introduced to measure the impact of redirecting water away from irrigated agriculture. The affected areas are calculated using a conservative boundary of 10km radius.

Ms Isaacs reported there is a 30% reduction in water allocation in the affected areas for the entire summer. The decline in the quality of fruit is moving 15% of exported fruit into the local market (apples, table grapes, plums, pears). Wine grapes are harvested early and this is forcing 10% of grape volumes away from wine towards juicing or distilling. No poultry projects would be implemented until the flu outbreak is contained.

There would be a total ban on agricultural irrigation for an extended period during the production season. Fruit farmers choose stumping technique to preserve trees which shock the orchard growth cycle and long-term yield progression. Wine farmers take off all grapes early in the season to build reserves for the next season, but the whole crop goes into waste products. The wine industry has made a loss of R695 million and 11 275 jobs have been lost.

She concluded this would lead to financial stress and put pressure on the wellbeing of rural communities. The export position of the province would be challenged because of reduction in the quality of produce.
Food and nutrition security may be affected because fewer gardens would be supported. The limited animal feed in the province has affected livestock farmers who still need support to feed their breeding stock.

(Tables and figures were shown to illustrate the potential impact of drought on the fruit and wine industry; hectares planted; location of projects; disposal of infected material; and distribution of poultry and ostrich farms in the Western Cape)

Northern Cape presentation
Dr Phemelo Kegakilwe, Acting HOD: Northern Cape Agriculture & Land Reform Department, said the Northern Cape is a livestock province because 67% of land use is for livestock production, while 1% is for crop production which is mainly under irrigation. The province contributes 5% of maize and 17% of wheat to national production. Ground nuts account for 16% only. Sheep farming takes the biggest share of 65%, while beef cattle and goat farming account for 28% and 6%, respectively.

In the make-up of the Northern Cape agriculture, animal and animal products contribute 49%, field crops 25%, and horticulture 26%. 114 000 of hectares of land are under irrigation. Main crops include summer grains, winter cereals, lucerne, wine, dry, and table grapes. The province plants wheat and oats as winter crops and they are being harvested closer to December. This project creates 80 jobs during the planting and harvesting season. 409 hectares of wheat are under irrigation. During summer the province plants maize which it harvests closer to May and June. This project creates plus minus 80 jobs. 703 hectares of maize is under irrigation. (Tables were shown to illustrate activities and costs and planned projects for the districts)

Free State presentation
Dr Takisi Masiteng, General Manager: Free State Agriculture Department, took the Committee through the agricultural landscape of the province which produces over 70% of the country’s grain. Field crops yield almost two-thirds of the gross agricultural income of the province. During the 2015/16 season, 44% of the total commercial maize in SA was produced in the Free State.

The training focus of the districts in the province are on livestock (including processing), AgriParks, poultry (including processing), grain, and dairy. For the 2017/18 period, Ilima/Letsema got an allocation of R63.178 million for 53 projects which include fruit, vegetables, red meat, poultry, piggery, grain (soya and maize), and other. Its target is to create 491 jobs. It has 58 518 beneficiaries including youth and five disabled people.

The Fetsa Tlala Programme of 2017/18 would assist 22 farmers to plant 2 030 hectares of maize. Six farmers would be assisted to plant 560 hectares of soya beans, and one farmer would be assisted to plant 100 hectares of sunflowers. The department has committed itself to enhance production and to improve the genetic make-up of the current herd by providing livestock to 17 farmers – 460 cattle, 348 pigs, and 6 600 chickens (broilers and layers). The province plans to plant 5196 hectares during the 2017/18 period.

On mechanisation, he said the identified smallholder farmers to be supported with production inputs are linked to their respective mechanisation cooperatives in their districts. Interventions have been focused on the repair of tractors, procurement of production inputs like diesel and lubricants, and provision of administration fees and mentorship. 25 people are benefiting from this.

On food security, 12 520 families and 100 community gardens and institutions would receive production inputs for vegetable production. The department is going to run the Hlasela Tlala Ka Diratswana competition to create food security awareness, transfer knowledge and skills, give recognition to achievement, stimulate creativity and innovation, and promote value adding. The department would also create awareness on water wise backyard vegetable production and introduce the importance of backyard fowls.

Dr Takisi Masiteng pointed out its challenges were increasing costs of production inputs, decrease in grant fund allocation, and drought. The growing water crisis in the country is worrying. His department has an Agricultural Master Plan which is a guiding document to align commodities with natural resources, and it has recruited 30 extension practitioners with effect from October 2017.

Eastern Cape presentation
Mr Leon Coetzee, Deputy Director-General: Agriculture Development, Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, said his department has adopted a commercialisation approach which has different models. The Commodity Based Model deals with citrus, deciduous fruit, chicory and pineapples. There is value chain growth. The Cluster Based Partnership Model involves red meat and wool production, grains (maize), vegetables, aquaculture, and forestry. It provides market access, agro-processing, incubation, and infrastructure. Then the Non-Financial Support deals with farmers, the private sector, DRDAR officials, and social facilitation. It provides change management and capacity development. The Integrated Government Support deals with commodity development enablers and challenges.

Mr Coetzee reported all six districts of the province are ready for the planting season. The OR Tambo region has got the lowest figure of 75% while the Sarah Baartman region has got the highest figure of 90% in terms of readiness. The Alfred Nzo, Chris Hani, and Joe Gqabi districts are 80% ready and the Amathole is standing at 85%. He said the mechanisation programme is concentrating on local farmers and individuals that have got their own tractors. He noted the system of using government tractors for big areas has proven not to work, but works only on household gardens. The contribution of farmers to mechanisation is working very well because it has increased targeted areas. Procurement or contracting for production inputs was completed by 20 October 2017. Input suppliers are contracted for three years, and the department is very strict on contract management.

All the districts have AgriParks, but the department is not getting any assistance from Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) although they work together with it. The AgriParks are putting up fencing and putting in place animal handling equipment to prepare for the time when they have to be operational. The Department prides itself on the Ncorha AgriPark.

He indicated the development financial institutions (DFIs) and private sector are attracted to the cropping system. The partnership with Grain SA and Grain Farmer Development Association (GFADA) has proved to be beneficial. Marketing arrangements for white maize rural enterprise development (RED) hubs are in place. The department is also working with SASSA to identify people most vulnerable to hunger while currently the department supports 24 000 households. The department is insisting that the many unemployed graduates from agricultural institutions must be employed by the commodity groups.  (Tables with figures illustrated state of readiness of the province per district for 2017/18)

KwaZulu-Natal presentation
Ms Thuledu Khumalo Chief Director Agricultural Services: KZN Agriculture Department, briefed the Committee about the Multiple Planting Season that has been adopted by her department. It is one of the outcomes of the Deprtment Strategic Review held in November 2016 to enhance subsistence farming as well as the food and nutrition programme. In the past the department mobilised farmers around a single planting season which was usually around September and October. But the single planting season has proved to be limiting for food production in KZN.

She explained the Multi Planting Season recognises that the planting seasons for warmer and colder parts of the province differ, acknowledges - depending on geographical locations - districts have different planting seasons, and promotes commodities based on their suitability per planting season. The Multiple Planting Season is there to enhance the capability of farmers by supporting them to optimise agricultural production throughout all seasons, provide technical information and extension support, and mobilise farmers around the multiple planting season.

The department has ring-fenced R56 million for crop production for 2017/18. It is targeting to plant 13 504 hectares of maize, while 6 200 and 1 200 hectares are for dry beans and vegetable production, respectively. All the districts are said to be ready for the planting season. Ugu has the lowest rating of 60%, while Amajuba and uMkhanyakude are at 80%. The total number of hectares targeted for planting is 20 904 with 11 847 beneficiaries.

30% of seeds and seedlings have been delivered to beneficiaries. 70% is planned to be delivered end of October as contract negotiations are being finalised. 70% of fertilizers and agrochemicals is already delivered to the offices of the department and beneficiaries while 30% is work in progress. 35% of tractors are functional and already ploughing and the remaining 65% is to be serviced through the Department of Transport (DoT) contract. In cases where tractors are not ready, independent mechanisation service providers would be appointed.

All communal estates currently supported have signed Tractor Loan For Use Agreements with both the Acting HOD and the chief executive (CE) representative. Funding agreements have also been processed for communal estates where funds would be transferred for fuel and tractor drivers. Both Tractor Loan For Use and Funding Agreements have been revised with the Legal Services unit. All communal estates would be workshopped by mid November, including officials who are part of communal estates.

(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate multiple planting seasons for warmer and colder areas; identified AgriParks; maize and vegetable value chains; and state of readiness)

Limpopo presentation
Ms Jacqueline Maisela, HOD: Limpopo Agriculture Department, said her department has adopted food production support through Fetsa Tlala. The focus is on staple food crops such as maize, sorghum and beans. Ilima Letsema is the source of funding for production inputs and mechanisation. The department aims to reduce the number of households vulnerable to food insecurity by 9.5% by 2019/20. The province has targeted at least 13 006 hectares to be under production for 2017/18. The level of readiness in the province is at 83%.

On mechanisation, she said the department provides mechanisation support services to farmers through the government tractor and private tractor services. The private tractor services are there to augment government tractors as and when the need arises. The Fetsa Tlala Standard Operating Procedure was reviewed to close some implementation gaps.

She reported 72 tractors have been distributed to all five districts. Tractors have been repaired and tractor drivers appointed. Fuel has been procured and stored at local agricultural offices and service centres. Applications for assistance for ploughing services close at the end of October. Normal procurement processes would be followed to procure private tractors and specifications have been developed. Procurement processes are underway and appointments are planned for end of October 2017.

On measures to be taken to improve crop output, she pointed out the department and stakeholders have undertaken to ensure all beneficiaries would make sure the crop is nurtured until harvest time. Farmers would ensure weeding of their fields is done. They would also ensure livestock found grazing in their fields is reported to the local tribal authorities and impounded. The department has introduced a consent form which is signed by the farmers as part of their commitment to look after the crop and it is going to strengthen monitoring by extension officers and farmer committees.

She indicated challenges are around procurement processes to repair government tractors because Landini is the sole service provider and already there have been discussions with Landini to increase capacity. The department has also received more applications than the available resources and it is going to prioritise new requests. (Tables and figures were shown to illustrate the state of readiness per district)

Gauteng presentation
Mr Nhlakanipho Nkontwana, HOD: Gauteng Agriculture & Rural Development Department, told the Committee the province is ready for 2017/18. The targeted farmers and grain producing farmers have taken advantage of the current rains and are working the lands in preparation for planting. The department is targeting to plant 2 600 hectares of maize and dry beans.

On procurement to deliver production inputs, he said the terms of reference (TORs) were advertised in June 2017. Suitable service providers could not be identified due to non-compliance with requirements. The TORs were then re-advertised in September 2017 and closed on 6 October 2017. The Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) is currently evaluating the bids received. The BEC would recommend to the Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) on the appointment of the service provider by the end of October 2017. The department is going to take two weeks to distribute production inputs (seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides) to the targeted farmers in time for the planting season. The planting season commences on 15 November 2017 to 20 December 2017.

On mechanisation, he reported the department has a total of 91 tractors which are currently distributed to municipalities (44), cooperatives (35), and community and school food gardens (12). The department is going to do an assessment in terms of functionality. The challenges are around management and maintenance and group dynamics, especially when it comes to cooperatives. There is one tractor for two cooperatives. The department is working on a strategy to improve mechanisation assistance to farmers. After the planting seasons, the tractors would be taken back to the department, and the department would consider the recommendations of the draft proposal on the tractors.

Mr Nkontwana indicated that the identified smallholder farmers to be supported with maize production inputs have already started with soil preparation. To date, a total of 1 589 hectares have been cultivated in preparation for the planting season. Departmental tractors, private and outsourced mechanisation have been used for this. He noted the majority of grain smallholder farmers solely depend on rainfall for their farming. They do not necessarily have irrigation systems to irrigate their fields. So, an economically viable, adequately rainfall fed maize would bring a positive return on investment.

In case of drought, he said the department would procure drought resistant maize seed cultivars. It would identify smallholder farmers with irrigation systems to justify the investment. The department would get them to apply and consider providing them with such maize production inputs and ensure that they would be able to use them during this planting season. Clear justification of investment on maize production inputs would be outlined.

Lastly, he pointed out challenges are the expensive and high capital value of agricultural machinery and emerging farmers who do not have large land under cultivation and who make use of sub-contractors to cultivate their lands. The department is going to look at public private partnerships on provision of agricultural machinery from IDC, NDA, DAFF, DRDLR. Support to emerging farmers would be provided through the Land and Agrarian Reform Programme.

(Tables and figures illustrated state of readiness for the 2017/18 planting season per district and rainfall weather forecasts)

Discussion
Mpumalanga presentation
Ms A Steyn (DA) asked if the drought resistant maize seed has been planted. She asked how many households have been helped and not helped from the set target of 10 000 and 14 000 hectares planted.

Ms Sindiwe Xulu: HOD: Mpumalanga, replied the province has for this financial year bought maize seed for its four regions because it is a challenge for farmers due to water shortages.

Mr Maanda Dagada, Acting Chief Director: Mpumalanga, replied the total figure for households to be supported is plus minus 38 000. The number of those that have been given assistance out of the 38 000 is 10 000.

Mr Van Dalen (DA) asked how Mpumalanga is able to produce 66 million tons of sorghum, three times more than what the rest of SA can produce (27 million).

Mr Dagada replied the figures had been mistakenly juxtaposed. Mpumalanga produces 27 million tons of sorghum, while the national figure is 66 million. Mpumalanga ranks second in terms of sorghum production.

The Chairperson asked how many tractors are in good working condition and what the number of outsourced private tractors is. She asked for an update on AgriParks. She asked how the beneficiaries have been identified because there is an increase in the number of households to be supported for ploughing.

Ms Xulu reported some tractors are working while others are being repaired. They have done as assessment on the number of tractors needed to plough the land. They have an agreement with private farmers for the ploughing of the large hectares that need to be done. Five private tractors are going to work on the big grounds and are placed in all the regions. The Hlanzeni District has two private tractors due to its size.

On the identification of beneficiaries, Ms Xulu replied, based on the criteria, the beneficiaries have been categorised to determine whether they are small-scale or backyarders. They engaged traditional leaders and authorities on communal land that needs to be tilled. Tractors were provided. The youth are being involved through the Fortune 40 Programme where government farms have been resuscitated and given to the youth. That is why the numbers are increasing. They have introduced Phezukomkhono Mlimi where they have adopted schools to plough, and utilised the grant and equitable share.

For AgriParks, Ms Xulu replied they undertook market research to identify where most of the markets are located and that is where the AgriParks are going to be. The distance factor was taken into consideration for delivering the products to the market place. There is no funding they receive from DRDLR. The provincial department is using its own resources and the cabinet has given them funds to carry on with the projects. Now they are adding new hubs. Already they have three. A new hub is being put up in Ermelo. They have engaged with the provincial DRDLR which indicated it has the funds.

Western Cape presentation
Mr Paulsen (EFF) asked about the different opinions on the avian flu because some say the birds do not have to be culled, but one should rather treat the flu.

Ms Isaacs replied she gives the virus a compliment. It lives only for 42 days. The method of disposing the culled birds is very difficult because you cannot dump it on a normal dumping site. The negative farm affects the positive farm.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) asked what the target was for the planting only of grain in the Western Cape. How much did the department get from DAFF for Ilima Letsema? Is the department ready for the planting season?

Ms Isaacs replied they have planted 800 hectares of grain since April 2017. They are now going to do vegetables but that is going to depend on the water allocation that each farmer is going to get. There has been 50% reduction in production. Black farmers are being supported through conditional grants on Ilima Letsema. Money received for Ilima Letsema was R53m for vegetables, backyard garden and aquaculture for people in different regions and districts. On the state of readiness to plant, she replied the Western Cape is not a summer rain province, hence the other provinces are ready to plant. The Western Cape is a Mediterranean region.

Ms Steyn asked if there are hectares available for AgriParks and irrigation, and she asked for an update on tractors.

Ms Isaacs replied nothing has been done on AgriParks because no money has been received from the DRDLR. There are 240 000 hectares for irrigation, but if there is no water or rain, there is nothing they could develop. She said 72 tractors have been received from the National Department. On projects needing mechanisation, they have looked at ownership, especially on wine farms because they have to use them every day. The tractors are being managed by a public entity. Farmers request a tractor from the public entity and all the tractors have a tracker.

The Chairperson wanted to establish the baseline for household assistance and what the figures are and if Western Cape is using the Stats SA results.

Ms Isaacs replied they use the Municipal Indigent Register instead of Stats SA results. They look at what the farmers get allocated for water and then see what they can do. If they cannot grow vegetables, they could grow chickens. But because there is the bird flu, things are now difficult because there is no rain.

Northern Cape presentation
Ms Steyn asked what plans are in place for the transference of skills. She asked how far the department is with irrigation projects and noted that the Vaalharts Dam has been under construction for many years.

Dr Kegakilwe, on skills transfer, reported they are working closely with stakeholders to ensure farmers get relevant skills. Smallholder farmers are receiving training, especially in financial management. Concerning irrigation, the current level of funding is not going to happen in the next 30 years. But the estimate is around R2 billion. The Vaalharts Dam is now dilapidated and very old.

Mr Maloyi asked if the department is receiving any conditional grant from the DRDLR.

Dr Kegakilwe replied they have received zero from the DRDLR. Even for the drought implementation plan, the DRDLR had its own plans and did not want any provincial involvement.

The Chairperson asked the department to explain what it means when it says it is ready to plant, and asked if the department is using Stats SA results in identifying the beneficiaries.

Dr Kegakilwe explained when it comes to food security matters, the department works very closely with the Department of Social Development. In terms of summer crops, soon they would be harvesting the wheat. There are implements that have been procured at a cost of R3.5 million and would be delivered before the end of November. The department has put aside R7m for machinery to ensure farmers have the necessary mechanisation. The farmers are organised. They have an executive committee that identifies those that do not have mechanisation and they help each other.

Ms Kgasebonwe-Tongwane (ANC) asked if there are programmes that benefit women and youth in order to transfer skills.

Ms Lillian Senosi, Acting Director for Farmer Support: Northern Cape, reported they have the Moso Basadi Cooperative which is led by women. They are busy with a programme placing graduates on farms with regard to production input. Most of the projects are youth oriented. There is a budget in place for training women in the agriculture sector. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is assisting a lot and most young people are employed in these projects and are showing interest in agriculture.

Mr N Capa (ANC) asked why there has been no planting in some areas.

Ms Senosi replied that it is because of the procurement processes that have to be followed. It is not that there are delays.

Ms Steyn asked for clarity on the baseline for household support and livestock production. She remarked the Northern Cape seems to be the perfect place for testing the drought resistant maize seed.

On household support and livestock production, Ms Senosi indicated they are looking at supporting 10 000 households for the current financial year. There is a huge decline in some areas for the Karoo meat production. A document would be sent to the Committee. It details everything on the decrease in meat production. The testing of the drought resistant maize seed would be in the Namaqua areas because they have been declared drought areas and the technical people would be asked to do the testing there.

The Chairperson commented people complain that plant production has gone down because they get assistance only when the planting season has gone or they get things for planting very late when the rainy season is gone.

Ms Senosi assured the Committee the matter would be given attention. Rains normally fall during January in Northern Cape and early rains come around October and November.

Free State presentation
Ms Steyn asked the department to give an update on AgriParks.

Dr Masiteng, General Manager: Free State Agriculture Department, reported that farmers that have been supported have been linked with the markets. Currently, the department is at a delivery stage in all district areas. Farmers are signing off contracts. There have been a number of consultations and what has been delivered could be registered.

Mr Capa asked why the procurement percentage is at 40% yet an implementing agent has been appointed.

Dr Masiteng explained that the delay in procurement has been informed by past experience where they bought in bulk and the rains did not come. The plant production season has started and they could not wait until December. November is the planting month.

The Chairperson asked how the department is assisting individuals and cooperatives with mechanisation. She asked about the number of hectares targeted because Fetsa Tlala is meant to unlock unused land in the former homelands. How is the department engaging with the Trusts and is it getting cooperation from them? She asked if the department is interacting with the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and ARC.

Dr Masiteng replied they have formed mechanisation cooperatives which help farmers that need assistance. Priority is given to farmers identified for Fetsa Tlala. Trusts are farmers that were part of the homeland system. Mechanisation even assists those farmers. The number of hectares is between 3 000 and 7 000 because the set target was 18 000 and later got reduced due to financial constraints. They work closely with SAWS and ARC.

Eastern Cape presentation
Mr Maloyi asked the department to explain what the problem is about the drought resistant seed that has not yielded positive results in the province. He asked what caused the delay in the delivery of production inputs. He asked what SPGA is and why its contract is being terminated.

Mr Leon Coetzee, Deputy Director-General for Agriculture Development: Eastern Cape, replied they are not opposed to the drought resistant seed. They bought it for farmers from ARC. It was planted at testing places around the province. They are not comfortable telling farmers to plant it because they were confronted with drought last year. At this stage, they do not have concrete results and have worked with ARC. On the delivery of production inputs, he explained seeds and fertiliser could not be sent to places where they could not be stored. Maize could be planted along the coastal areas because they are frost free, but inland is another story. SPGA is the Specialist Pineapple Growers Association company. The department does not want to partner with people who want to make money from the government. Its books were not in order and they could not be trusted with government money. It was a matter of compliance that made the department not procure from them.

Mr L Ntshayisa (AIC) asked why no seeds and fertiliser were ordered for the Matatiele region.

Mr Coetzee replied farmers in that area were invited to participate in the cropping system. Unfortunately, they did not respond and they missed the deadline.

Ms Steyn asked for clarity on the baseline for the province and about the farmer contribution in the Joe Gqabi Local Municipality. She asked what the impact of the drought is in the province. She asked for an update on the avian flu outbreak in the Port Elizabeth region.

Mr Coetzee replied that the baseline still needs to be done in order to identify indigent rural and urban households. On the farmer contribution in Joe Gqabi, he reported there is government assistance in the area. Maize production is happening at Elundini, and farmers in that municipality have good relations with a cooperative and the government supplies them with mechanisation. The drought had a negative impact on the production of chicory in the Ndlambe and Ngqushwa municipalities; but recently those two areas have had good rains. Hopefully, things are going to improve in that area. An avian flu outbreak was reported in the Uitenhage area and the department has taken the necessary steps. There has been a scare in the Sundays River Valley, but it was only wild birds and not chickens eaten by people.

Mr Capa wanted to find if there is no way of considering an indigent grant for farmers that could not pay.

Mr Coetzee indicated the once-off support is not working. To give and run is not working.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the tractors given to the traditional leaders. She asked for explanation about the agriculture graduates because when they were called by the Minister in one event, they indicated they do not want to be workers, but wanted to be farmers. She asked why the department is not adopting the Mpumalanga Fortune 40 programme.

Mr Coetzee explained that tractor donations were made by the current President. The whole matter created fights among the beneficiaries and the maintenance was the responsibility of the department. Now the department has repaired those that are repairable and they have been given back to the traditional leaders, but people have to pay a fee. The graduate programme works just like the other programmes. The Fort Cox College is running a programme where it trains students to run poultry farms. Support is given to the local schools and teachers around the area where the students practise. The ultimate idea is to establish farming entrepreneurs.

KwaZulu-Natal presentation
Mr Maloyi asked why 65% of tractors are still to be serviced when 70% are planned to be delivered in early November 2017.

Ms Khumalo, Acting Chief Director for Agriculture Services: KwaZulu-Natal, explained the delays have been in the appointing of contractors for tractors. The service level agreement expired last year. Now they have advertised because their fleet is varied. The department is trying to find a person who can service these different types of tractors and it is trying to engage the Department of Public Works on this matter.

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) asked why there are delays in seed contracts, and he asked for clarity on the workshops for tractors.

Ms Khumalo replied they tried to procure from the same service provider but the cost estimate was too high. The quotations received from other service providers are too expensive for the department. The workshops are on the functionality of the tractors. They would be conducted by specialists from the department and the focus would be on finance management.

Ms Steyn asked for the baseline for the number of hectares being planted. She asked about the number of beneficiaries because there is no decrease in the poverty – the province is big with large numbers of people living with poverty. She asked if the unfolding procurement process for production inputs would involve mechanisation.

Ms Khumalo replied on the baseline they have a section in one of their documents that deals with micro-planning throughout the process. It details the number of hectares planted and not planted. The information has not been included in the presentation, but it would be sent to the Committee. In terms of beneficiaries, they have engaged the food security section to provide statistics, the Stats SA results, and Office of the Premier to identify the most vulnerable. The Office of the Premier runs a programme that identifies the most vulnerable and comes up with interventions. It comprises ward councillors, traditional leaders, and local municipality officials. Positive results are seen through the health statistics reports on the most vulnerable. On the procurement process, she reported they started very late with the contractors that have to execute the work that still needs to be done on the tractors. Some districts have limited tractors yet they have the money. So, a little percentage of the budget is going to be used.

Ms Steyn asked how many AgriParks are up and running.

Ms Khumalo replied they do not have a complete programme. If it is there, perhaps it would come with the DRDLR. Every month there are units that engage DRDLR on AgriParks. She admitted they have implemented nothing on the drought resistant seed, but work is being done by the research testing stations.

Mr Maloyi remarked there are many things he wanted to suggest but he did not want to say them to the wrong person because the MEC and accounting officers did not attend the meeting. He did not have the opportunity to state what he wanted to say because the people he wanted to interact with chose to be absent.

The Chairperson added that provinces do not seem to understand the implications of not bringing the MEC and accounting officers to the Committee to answer the Committee's concerns. These matters would have implications when provinces have to receive conditional grants.

Limpopo presentation
Mr Capa asked how the department is going to address the matter of applications for ploughing if they have not yet been received by the end of October. He asked for clarity on the use of fertiliser on dry land.

Ms Maisela, HOD: Limpopo Agriculture Department, replied the October deadline is meant to accommodate everyone. Submitted applications are still being processed. The concern of the farmers about fertilizer on dry land is based on their experience. There is no scientific reason for refusing to agree to their concerns.

Mr Maphanga asked about the Lephalale Project where the readiness of two projects is far behind at 50% while others are 70% ready.

Ms Maisela replied 50% refers to those suppliers who are struggling to do the work due to financial constraints.

Ms Steyn asked if the department is doing trials with farmers to try the fertiliser on the dry land. Has the department a maintenance programme for tractors? She asked if the under-utilised land by the department is planted or not. She remarked that if more money is spent on financing the fencing of the hectares, that means there would not be enough money to do important things.

Ms Maisela replied that fencing pricing is a factor that consumes a lot of budget. On under-utilised land, they are looking at communal land and land reform farms that have not been in production, and 200 000 hectares of land have been planted. The department is busy speaking with beneficiaries. The signed agreement for tractor maintenance has lapsed, but they need to ensure there is a new one in place. The seed trials are being done with local tertiary institutions. The department got 7.2 tons of drought resistant maize seed from ARC last year. The yields were quite okay and scientists have to make scientific calculations.

The Chairperson commented it is important to appreciate the work that has been done for people affected by food security. The new challenge now for the department is in the townships where hunger is concentrated. The positive contribution of the province is evident in the Vhembe district where each and every household has a garden and tree that feeds the family. During the Committee's oversight visit to Limpopo, the Kopano Cooperative reported the de-bushing work done in that area is not up to scratch. The farmers in the area sent a letter to the Minister and to the province stating the service they get is fragmented and it is not making them any better and to be in a desired position. Lastly, she asked about the Fall Army Worm.

Ms Maisela replied the indications are that the interventions have managed to contain the Fall Army Worm. During the first quarter of the year, farmers were assisted. Scientists have confirmed there is nothing to be concerned about. The department would try to attend to the letter from the farmers. The matter is familiar with the mango project the farmers are working on. Perhaps the farmers who are complaining are those who feel that the help given to them is not enough. She reported it was department equipment that was used to debush the 20 hectares. It could be that the complaining cooperative feels the work the department has done was not done thoroughly, but the equipment used was in full working order.

Ms Steyn asked for an update on AgriParks.

Ms Maisela explained the department has AgriParks. It is already building on what the province has started. There are facilities being built to ensure they remain operational when they are completed. It is a concerted effort from various stakeholders that have shown interest. Farmers are being assisted in various districts to produce commodities, rehabilitating piggery facilities, red meat development, setting up of camps for cattle, grains and vegetables, rehabilitation of a chicken abattoir, etc. There is work happening to progress the development of AgriParks.

Gauteng presentation
Mr Maloyi commented he is not sure if Gauteng is ready for the planting season. Procurement advertisements were done in June 2017 and it found no service provider. The exercise was repeated in September 2017 and closed on 6 October 2017. This is going to lead to the lowering of standards because the Bid Committee could say it has found a service provider at the eleventh hour. He asked why these things are being left to the last minute. What is the department doing with the 12 tractors after the school food gardens?

Mr Mike Mosifane, Acting Chief Director: GDARD, explained that one of the challenges was to address supply chain management and they took a decision to meet every week. His mandate is to get a clean audit. If they want to meet the department's targets, they need to work around the clock. He agreed with the Committee they are under pressure, but that does not mean they would compromise standards. The 12 tractors are used to assist community and school food projects. They are given to farmers who request their services.

Mr Capa asked what is going to make the process different in phase 2 in getting new service providers. This does not give him confidence that the department is ready to plant. He remarked the department came to the meeting thinking it is ready, but when it leaves, it would realise it is not ready.

Mr Mosifane replied they have never failed before. They only thing they need to do is to buy and supply, nothing else. They have realised that support given to communities and farming individuals has been ad hoc and that needed to change.

The Chairperson asked if the department has made use of the drought resistant maize seed.

Mr Mosifane replied they are not going to buy it now because it is raining.

Mr C Mathale (ANC) remarked he feels the province is not ready for planting. The department has information at its disposal that it is going to rain, but it is planning for drought. By 15 November 2017, it wants to start planting, but when you look at what it presented, it shows it is not ready.

Mr Maloyi asked what the difference is between private and outsourced mechanisation.

Mr Nkontwana, Gauteng HOD, replied private tractors are owned by private farmers and are used on their own farms. Outsourced tractors are those that are in tractor hire outlets where you go and hire it and use it on your farm. After using it, you take it back to the outlet that hires out tractors.

DAFF Acting Director General, Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, commenting on discussion with provinces, replied that when ARC gave its Annual Report, it indicated it distributed drought resistant seeds to all provincial departments to be given to farmers. The maize seed is resistant to the Army Fall Worm. The matter raised by the Eastern Cape and Free State about the seed would be tabled before ARC. On farmer contribution to mechanisation, some provinces charge while others do not. The Producer Support Comprehensive Plan would address these matters to ensure the indigent do not get left behind. On the food purchase programme, he reported they have engaged with the army, but nothing has yet been finalised. They have to ensure the army is trained in food growing and is given access to markets while it is sticking to the required standards.

The Chairperson, in her closing remarks, said the Director General should ensure there is planning between the national and provincial departments to grow the sector. This means things should be coordinated. The Committee wants to see progress in the sector. The decisions of MinMec have to be implemented. She indicated that Members are going to get telephone calls from communities and individuals saying they have not received assistance from their provincial departments, especially when the people get to know the Committee has met with the provincial departments in Parliament.

The meeting was adjourned.

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