Agri-Parks provincial progress reports; with Deputy Ministers

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

29 October 2019
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

Agri-Parks in each province reported on their functionality, budget expenditure, and the number of beneficiaries and jobs created in their province by the programme. All nine provinces were present and eight gave briefings as Gauteng had already done so in a previous meeting. The provincial departments provided detailed status reports on current Agri-Parks initiatives such as the Farmer Production Support Units (FPSU) and Rural Enterprise and Industrial Development (REID). Many of the provinces had non-functional FPSUs or they were under construction, and some were prioritised only for next year. The FPSU are meant to create job opportunities in each province and provided support to farmers with equipment, capital injections as well as training at training facilities.

Members complained that the provincial presentation documents did not contain enough information. There were inconsistencies in the national and provincial figures for functional FPSUs and Members said the national department should set a standard for the attributes of a functional FPSU. Members were concerned at the high number of non-functional FPSUs in the provinces and that money was either being wasted or misused by the provincial departments. Members said that the FPSU appeared to create only temporary employment opportunities. They questioned the national department's lack of proper monitoring and guidance of the Agri-Parks by provincial departments. Given the constrained DARDLR budget, some Members asked if the money expended on Agri-Parks was worthwhile for the small returns. They requested a detailed breakdown of the usage of R2 billion in Agri-Parks funding. Provinces should emulate Gauteng which are actively functional and beneficial to the communities.

Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha acknowledged that there are challenges and that not much has been done by National Department in its oversight role. He agreed that that much could be learnt from the Gauteng but noted that there were active Agri-Parks in other provinces as well.

Due to time constraints, the provinces were requested to submit feedback in writing by the end of the week.

Meeting report

The Chairperson thanked both Deputy Ministers of Agriculture, Land Reform, Rural Development for attending the meeting. He said Agri-Parks in each province would report on their functionality, budget expenditure, and the number of jobs created in their province.

KwaZulu Natal Agri-Parks
Ms Nhlanhla Mndaweni, KZN Chief Director: Provincial Shared Service Centre, DARDLR, said that KZN has ten FSPU districts specializing in vegetable production, which the department has supported with equipment, capital and machinery. Skills programmes and training were provided to local citizens and farmers in the FSPU. All FPSU training and meeting centres have a standard design. Jobs have been created in all FSPUs including permanent, temporary and self-employment. Out of the ten FPSUs only one is not functional, the Horse Shoe FPSU. The department hopes that sugar cane production FPSUs will be implemented in future.

Western Cape Agri-Parks
Ms  Juanita Fortuin, Chief Director: Western Cape Provincial Shared Service Centre, DARDLR, said that the Western Cape has five FSPU districts. A few FPSUs were completed, however most of the FPSUs are not functional but governance structures have been implemented by the department. Many of the Rural Enterprise and Development (REID) programmes were within budget. Jobs have been created by the FPSUs to support rural development. The newly implemented irrigation system has beneficiaries which are small-scale farmers and community households.

Limpopo Agri-Parks
Ms Makholo Kgoahla said Limpopo has four FSPUs, however the department has chosen to prioritize two of them. The other two will be prioritized in the next financial year as approved by local authorities. The department has assisted farmers with construction of storage sheds, warehouses and water canals, and provided materials and equipment to increase production. The FPSUs have created jobs and supported rural beneficiaries in the form of small-scale farmers.

Mpumalanga Agri-Parks
Ms Mahlatse Mamabolo said Mpumalanga has five FPSU districts, four of these are at the operation stage and one is still under construction. Other FPSUs in the province are not functional because there had been vandalism and theft in those areas which resulted in delays, therefore those FPSUs will be prioritized in the next financial year. The FPSUs have not yet created jobs but are expected to once they are operational. The department has provided training to the youth and farmers and has provided farmers with the required equipment. The FPSUs have supported rural beneficiaries.

Free State Agri-Parks
Ms Boitumelo Katlego Matshediso said that the Free State FPSUs were going to be operationalized in the following year, some are still being planned and under construction and only one is functional. The department has supported farmers in a plant drive and provided equipment to farmers. The functional FPSU has created jobs and supported rural beneficiaries.

North West Agri-Parks
Mr Richard Sebolai said that the North West FPSUs are still under construction and only one is functional. The department will be initiating programmes that will support farmers. The FPSU has created jobs especially since most FPSU facilities are currently being renovated.

Northern Cape Agri-Parks
Mr Reaz Sayed said the department had managed to get two FPSUs fully functional while the other FPSUs were still being finalized. The department has supported farmers by providing equipment. Rural beneficiaries have been supported through the FPSU and jobs have been created by them.

Eastern Cape Agri-Parks
Two FPSUs are prioritized by the department while some were not functional. The FPSUs have created jobs and supported rural beneficiaries. Production land was acquired by the FPSUs to increase production rates.

Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) said that there was confusion with the concept of Agri-Parks and requested the budget allocated to Agri-Parks as well as the difference between the setting out of FSPUs in provincial departments and how farmers were being supported by the FPSUs. He asked the department to clarify the foundation of implementing infrastructure and why the maintenance of the FPSUs by the provincial departments was not noted in the presentations.

Mr Smit asked why R2 billion was spent in a year by the department and how the funds were used for Agri-Parks. He requested a detailed breakdown of the usage of funds.

Mr Smit asked why the Maphela District FPSU in Limpopo was not included in the presentation but was mentioned orally. He said that the presentation was poorly presented and lacked enough substance. 

Mr Smit questioned the financially sustainability of FSPUs and if money was being wasted on the FPSU projects.

Ms L Bebee (ANC, KZN) thanked the provinces for the presentations and for the projects that had been implemented. She asked about the role of the national Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DARDLR) in evaluating the Agri-Park site designs of the provincial departments and whether recommendations were made before the actual implementation.

Ms Bebee asked if the national DARDLR tracked the production figures of each provincial FPSU and if any precautionary measures had been developed for provincial FPSU infrastructure in case of disruptions.

Lastly, Ms Bebee applauded the KwaZulu Natal province for the improvements in the Agri-Parks models.

Mr A Cloete (FF+, Free State) indicated much concern with the inconsistencies between non-functioning FPSUs mentioned by the national department the previous week and the sudden functioning of the same FPSUs in the provincial presentations. He emphasized that the departments and Committee are aware of what a functional/operational FPSU is. 

Mr Cloete asked if the DARDLR constrained budget vote has influenced the National Department to consider abandoning the Agri-Parks initiative because the FPSUs have resulted in a loss of money without any feasible outcomes. The provinces did not mention anything about the harvests that farmers received in return from the FPSU and providing food to surrounding communities. The government should be the FPSU biggest supporter in purchasing crops from the farmers and providing the FPSU with access to markets remains a challenge.

Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) asked the Deputy Ministers were satisfied with the progress of the provincial Agri-Parks.

Mr Arnolds expressed great disappointment at the Western Cape’s presentation as most of the FPSU processes are non-functional. Nothing has been done since 2015 in the FPSUs to improve the status of these districts. The jobs created by the FPSU are not sustainable because the governing structures are not properly managed by the provincial department. This raises concern about the type of support given to the FPSUs by Agri-Parks.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked what DARDLR's responsibility is in supporting Agri-Parks, according to policy as well as its evaluation role in creating sustainable Agri-Parks. The Limpopo presentation provided an account only of temporary jobs created by the FPSU. She emphasized the importance of monitoring FPSUs by the National Department and the need for provincial departments to provide feedback to the national department. There should be a set of responsibilities for the maintenance of FPSU infrastructure.

Mr A Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) reiterated the purpose of the meeting which was not to pin-point faults in the presentations. He emphasized the importance of the attendance of the Deputy Ministers on the oversight visits to the Agri-Parks.

Mr Nyambi said that Agri-Parks have an important role in advancing the National Development Plan (NDP) to address unemployment and urbanization. He pointed out that there are disparities in the national department figures and the provincial department figures. He suggested that the province presentations should have been presented holistically by the national department instead of individually by provincial representatives, which would assist Members to engage in a structured, unbiased discussion to address the issues.

Mr Nyambi suggested that a fully operational FPSU is shown to members to use as a guide and standard to determine functional FPSUs in all provinces. He said that provinces tend to present the achievements of the FPSUs and not the faults.

Mr Nyambi recommended that the national department expectations should be outlined to the provinces. The provinces could learn from the Gauteng FPSUs which are actively functional and beneficial to the communities.

Deputy Minister's feedback
Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha acknowledged that there are challenges and that not much has been done by national department in its oversight role. He agreed that that much could be learnt from the Gauteng FSPU but noted that there were active Agri-Parks in other provinces as well. He encouraged a Committee oversight visit to the Agri-Parks in other provinces. All concerns raised made by Members will be considered.

The Chairperson requested that the provincial departments respond in writing to Members' questions and submit them before Friday 01 November 2019.

The Chairperson said to the national department that he questioned the value for money in the construction of FPSU sites and asked provincial departments to re-evaluate how money is spent on Agri-Parks. He suggested that the Deputy Minister attend the Committee oversight visits to be witnesses to the evaluations of the Agri-Parks.

Meeting adjourned

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