Plant Improvement Bill & Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill: NCOP amendments; Fetsa Tlala & planting season readiness: DAFF, with Deputy Minister

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

11 September 2018
Chairperson: Mr P Maloyi (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and approved the amendments by the NCOP to the Plant Improvement Bill and Plant Breeders Rights Bill.

On the Plant improvement Bill, the amendment was grammatical under Clause 9. On the types of business that may be conducted, it initially read propagating material for cultivation and sale. The amendment is to replace ‘and’ with ‘or’, since one can do either businesses.

On the Plant Breeders Rights Bill, the NCOP was concerned with clause 30 on payment of annual fees. The Bill had provided for 3 months for late payment. The NCOP considered the period too short and had moved it from 3 months to 6 months to enable persons paying the annual fees to preserve their plant breeder rights. The Committee members sought clarification from the legal advisor on why the NCOP thought it fit to extend the period. Members thereafter moved to confirm the amendment having been assured by the parliamentary legal advisor that 6 months is a reasonable period.

The Department of Agriculture Forestry and fisheries (DAFF) thereafter briefed the Committee on the state of readiness for the 2018/19 planting season. DAFF reported that it had consultations with over 25 stakeholders consisting of farmer organisations and development financial institutions. Terms of references were developed and a Task team implementation plan was developed. The APP targets from the provinces have been consolidated and the government is pledging 104 701 ha of commodities. DAFF reported that the budget of R 866 million has been split against the commodities. DAFF confirmed that the blended funding is operational, that the funding forum has been established and that it is currently waiting for applications.

Committee members were however concerned that the report presented by DAFF was not consistent with the reports received from the provinces. The Eastern Cape had - in its presentation to the Committee -indicated that it was 95% ready yet DAFF presented a figure of 35% readiness. Gauteng had indicated its readiness to be at 90%, DAFF was presenting it as 50%. For North West the figure given was 75% yet DAFF had presented 100 % readiness. Members were also concerned that 1.3 tons of fertilizer had been ordered for Limpopo, which sum seemed impossible for 13 000 ha of land. The Committee also wanted DAFF to confirm on the value of the harvest given the input costs. DAFF committed to rechecking the figures. It also committed to reporting back to the Committee on the ongoing discussions it is having with Land Bank on the turn-around time for applications. Members were of the view that DAFF needs to urgently change and to put in place a well-functioning monitoring and evaluation unit, in order to verify information from the provinces so as to avoid the discrepancies.

The Chairperson commented that agriculture was one of the biggest contributors to South Africa’s economy and there is need for an intervention since the sector is currently not doing well. He cautioned that if all sectors in agriculture do not work together then there is a problem and that agriculture must create jobs.
 

Meeting report

Election of Acting Chairperson
The Committee Secretary conveyed the Chairpersons apologies and requested members to elect an Acting Chairperson

Mr W Maphanga (ANC) proposed that Mr P Maloyi (ANC) chairs the meeting.

Mr N Capa (ANC) seconded the nomination.

Mr Maloyi was elected unopposed to chair the meeting.

Consideration of NCOP amendments to the Plant Improvement Bill and Plant Breeders Rights Bill
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, stated that the two Bills being section 76 Bills require concurrence of both houses.

Plant Improvement Bill

Ms Ngema explained that the amendment was grammatical under Clause 9. On the types of business that may be conducted, it initially read propagating material for cultivation and sale. The amendment is to replace ‘and’ with ‘or’, since one can do either businesses.

She stated that in accordance with joint rule 184 and 185, the Bill is back with the Portfolio Committee for the Committee to deal with it in terms of the national assembly rules 311,312 and 313.

The Chairperson confirmed that all members were in concurrence with the amendment to replace ‘and’ with ‘or’.

Plant Breeders Rights Bill
Ms Ngema reported that in relation to this Bill, the NCOP was concerned with clause 30 on payment of annual fees. The Bill had provided for three months for late payment. The NCOP considered 3 months too short and has moved the period from 3 months to 6 months to enable a person paying the annual fee to preserve his/her plant breeders rights.

Mr P Van Dalen (DA) wanted to know why the NCOP felt it necessary to make the change and whether a presentation was made to them seeking the extension.

The Chairperson also requested Ms Ngema to give her view on the amendment.

Ms Ngema responded that the change came from submissions that the Select Committee received and from deliberations by its Members. The Select Committee considered all the intricacies that go to the process. She added that the amendment is reasonable since it gives sufficient time for one to check and update his/her records and that nothing renders the amendment unconstitutional.

Mr A Madella (ANC) moved that the amendment be confirmed.

Mr Van Dalen seconded this.

Outstanding Committee Minutes

22 May 2018

The Chairperson requested that members look at the Minutes for purposes of confirmation.

Mr Madella moved that the minutes be confirmed.

Ms T Tongwane (ANC) seconded this.

The minutes were approved with no changes.

29 May 2018
The Chairperson asked Members to look at the minutes for purposes of adoption.

Mr Maphanga moved that the minutes be confirmed.

Mr Madella seconded the motion.

The minutes were approved with no changes.

5 June 2018
The Chairperson asked members to go through the Minutes for purposes of confirmation.

Mr Maphanga moved that the minutes be confirmed.

Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) seconded the motion.

The minutes were approved with no changes.

7 June 2018
The Chairperson requested that members look at the Minutes for purposes of confirmation.

Mr Van Dalen moved that the minutes be confirmed.

Mr Madella seconded the motion.

The minutes were approved with no changes.

21 August 2018
The Chairperson requested that members look at the Minutes for purposes of confirmation.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) moved that the minutes be confirmed.

Mr Van Dalen seconded this.

The minutes were approved with no changes.

Remarks by Deputy Minister
Mr Sifiso Buthelezi, Deputy Minister, DAFF, conveyed the Minister’s apology and informed the Committee that he is attending a Select Committee meeting in the NCOP. He confirmed that the Department will be presenting on the state of readiness for 2018/19 planting season by the provinces.

Briefing by Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on the state of readiness for 2018/19 planting season

Mr Mike Mlengana, Director-General, DAFF, stated that the presentation is premised on the NDP vision 2030, in particular Chapter 6, which spoke about an integrated and inclusive rural economy.

He reported that DAFF had consultations with over 25 stakeholders consisting of farmer organisations and development financial institutions. Terms of references were developed and the task team implementation plan was developed which addresses the following:
Key activities, broken down into tasks and further into milestones;
Demarcating hectares into communal, land reform and private;
Comparing list of beneficiaries to curb double dipping and
Consultations at provincial level

He reported that verification on the status of tractors by the DAFF engineers is currently ongoing.

He then briefly went through the roles of the various stakeholders who have been engaged. The stakeholders include DAFF, whose role will include Research, market access, verification, monitoring and reporting. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) role will be on communal land access. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s (DRDLR) role will be on Identification, transformation, provision of available land and ensuring sustainable agrarian transformation with a thriving farming sector. DAFF is also negotiating to buy storage facilities from Vrystaat Kooperasie Beperk (VKB) to cater for the needs of small holder farmers.

Dr Jemina Moeng, Chief Director: Food Security, DAFF, reported that the previous years have been challenging and the challenges have been used to guide the consultative process to assist DAFF make things better.  The salient APP targets from provinces have been consolidated and the government is in total pledging 104 701 ha of commodities. Of that total the Eastern Cape has pledged the highest figure with 55 000 ha, North West 14 000 ha and Limpopo 13 654 ha. There is an additional 2000 ha making the total figure 106 925.9 ha. 
 On commodities she reported that maize leads at 75%  by taking  78 789 ha  of the total 104 701  ha. Maize is followed by beans and vegetables reflecting a mix of commodities that the current season will be engaging on. The Ilima/Letsema and CASP budget for 2018/18 is R 866 million which has been allocated through the provinces; the budget has been split against the commodities, with maize getting a bigger share. An additional 88 155 ha has come from other stakeholders and when added to the figures pledged by government of 104 701, the total number of ha is 192 856. 148 491 additional ha require funding.
Dr Moeng reported on the overall readiness rating of the provinces, the Eastern Cape state of readiness is 35.8 %,the Free State  is at 65%,Gauteng is 50 % whereas  North West and Western Cape provinces are 100 % ready. She confirmed that seeds, fertilizers, pesticides have been ordered, tractors have been repaired and that 34 % of the costs have been incurred as at August 2018.The total costs incurred is R 98 918797.63. The total jobs to be created will be around 12,161.
She said the blended funding will look at how farmers make applications and engage the financial institutions. DAFF has entered into an MOU with Land Bank and it is also in partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to support the grant fund while the commercial banks will support the loan funding whereas DAFF and the Department of Rural Development will support the grant fund. It will be a process of loan funding and grant funding hence the blended funding. The Funding forum which has already been established will be selecting and approving the grant portion of the fund. Insurance has been included in the funding stream to cover areas considered hazardous for example in instances of climate change. She clarified that subsistence producers will depend on existing funds and not the blended funds. DAFF has assigned DDGs to various provinces so that reports are given to DAFF to enable DAFF have a database of the producers it has supported. DAFF is also in partnership with Cogta to determine which land is part of land reform. There are agreed on templates for reports, verification will be by DAFF and will include sector partners so that DAFF gets a broad overview of how the sector is performing.

Discussion
Mr Van Dalen enquired about the 1.3 tons of fertilizers ordered for Limpopo and the 201 169 tons seeds ordered. He asked DAFF to confirm the numbers since he does not think it is possible to have such a huge amount of fertilizer used on the 13 000 ha.

Mr Madella thanked DAFF for the presentation. He commented that the overall state of readiness in the provinces varies and asked what plans are there to improve and for example increase the level of readiness in the Eastern Cape from 35.8% to 100 %. On blended farming he said that many people are applying for loans to procure land yet the Land Bank is taking too long. He said the government should be empowering small farmers to own land. He added that banks delaying loan approval applications contradict the urgency to transform land ownership.

Mr Filtane stated that an APP is a Programme for the year and that DAFF had provided a long list of private stakeholders, some of the stakeholders are commercial while others have a commercial intent. He asked what the expected value of the plant is. He had expected Grain farmers Development Association (GFADA) to confirm the value of the harvest. He also expected an indication of what risks to take into account. On food insecurity, he noted that 13 million SA citizens are food insecure and he had expected DAFF to give an indicator of how it will dent the 13 million number.

Deputy Minister Buthelezi agreed with Mr Filtane that DAFF will have to work to improve on its indicators. He confirmed that next time DAFF will deal better with the indicators. He confirmed that there is a concern on the turn-around time of the Land Bank and that a discussion is currently going on and that DAFF is waiting for a report from Land Bank.

Mr Mlengana responded on the ratio of the hectares to fertilizer in Limpopo, he said fertilizers increase with the number of hectares and that he was not sure if the figures are accurate, he requested that he be allowed to recheck the figures. On land acquisition, he stated that DAFF needs to work with the Department of Rural Development. He added that the agrarian revolution fights food insecurity and that DAFF is looking at Food strategy reserve and it is addressing communal land that has not been planted. On risk mitigation, he confirmed that the weather bureau is part of DAFF and that DAFF will seek to present on weather patterns. On the percentage of readiness per province, he said he has asked the provinces to remove the percentages because the figures can not be defined.

Dr Moeng added that the implementation plan will be implemented as of next week. She said provinces have been planning outside of the bigger sector and that through the task team the issue will be addressed.

Ms Elder Mtshiza, Chief Director: Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), DAFF, confirmed that the discussions with Land Bank will be held the following day and that DAFF hopes the blended farming will assist

Mr Van Dalen reiterated that the figure of 1.3 Tonnes of fertilizers is impossible. He asked for an opinion from DAFF on how the 30 % shrinkage of the agriculture sector, the recession, drought and land issue is going to affect food security.

Mr Maphanga asked about the mechanisation status. He noted that in some provinces like Free State, Limpopo, DAFF had donated 72 tractors per province yet those tractors have not reached the farmers. He asked if those tractors are enough to assist the farmers.

Mr Filtane asked DAFF to confirm when it will get back to the Committee with the information requested. He noted that the country is heading to elections and that Members want to leave a legacy.

The Chairperson stated that he was happy a task team was in place. He was however disappointed that the reports presented were not consistent. On the readiness by the provinces, the Committee had previously interacted with all the provinces. Eastern Cape had indicated that it was 95% ready yet DAFF has a figure of 35% readiness in Eastern Cape. Gauteng had indicated its readiness to be at 90%, DAFF had presented it as 50%. North West, the figure given was 75% yet DAFF had presented 100%. On DAFF having learnt from previous experiences, he noted that DAFF should have indicated those challenges in the report. He asked whether blended funding is in operation. He also made a comparison on small scale farming and commercial farmers and noted that the latter seem to be producing more. He asked whether DAFF had taken consideration the different types of soil.

Deputy Minister Buthelezi responded that DAFF will check on the discrepancies. He agreed that previous challenges need to be indicated to enable DAFF know whether it is making progress or retrogressing. He answered that the blended funding is not fully operational because of teething problems and that DAFF has transferred money to the Land Bank. On the effect of land expropriation and drought on food security, he advised that it is not right to be presumptuous since it is a process that DAFF has not gone through. He said it is a question of policy uncertainty and that fore casting is not perfect, it is only presumptuous. He advised that the sooner a conclusion is reached the better.

Mr Mlengana responded to Mr Maphanga’s question on mechanization. He reported that that DAFF has been using Project management units and that for example in the Eastern Cape it  employed the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) to assist farmers with mechanisation. In order to account for the tractors, DAFF will put global positioning system (GPS) on them.

Dr Moeng responded that all the figures as presented were received from the provinces and that DAFF will work with the task tem and the HoDs in rechecking the figures. She added that DAFF wants to present the truth and that it needs to strengthen its relationship with the provinces. She confirmed that DAFF will come back with a plan that captures the issues the Committee has raised. She agreed that 1.3 tonnes of fertilizers is a lot and confirmed that the figures will be rechecked. She said the blended funding is operational, the funding forum has been established and that it is waiting for applications. On the comparison between the Input cost and  the value of the input, she confirmed that communal areas and small holders  realize between, 1.7 to 2 tonnes at the most which is very different from what commercial farmers realize since commercial farms harvest high tonnes. She confirmed that DAFF has noted the issue and it is looking at what makes the hectares cost so much, yet realise very little and that all lands have to be improved in terms of capability.

The Chairperson commented that agriculture was one of the biggest contributors to South Africa’s economy and there is need for an intervention since the sector is currently not doing well. He cautioned that if all sectors in agriculture do not work together then there is a problem and that agriculture must create jobs. He added that DAFF needs to urgently change and that if it had a well functioning Monitoring and Evaluation section; it will not have discrepancies since all the information would be verified.

The meeting was adjourned.

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