The Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform together with AgriSA, AFASA and all provincial agriculture departments briefed the Portfolio Committee on their state of readiness for the 2019/20 planting season.
The Committee heard that widespread drought that has plagued the country since 2013 is not only affecting harvests, but also the game, meat, milk and fruit industries. In the first half of the year, real agricultural output was 9.2% lower than the corresponding period last year. About 37% of South Africa’s rural community is being affected by the drought, considered the worst in the past 100 years.
In the livestock sector, several factors have combined to strain producer margins in 2019 such as rising feed prices resulting from the dry planting season as well as the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Quarter 1 of 2019. With domestic consumer spending under pressure, the diversion of products that might otherwise have been exported into the domestic market caused prices to decline sharply despite constrained supply amid a cycle of herd rebuilding.
AgriSA recommended, amongst other things, the establishment of the National Drought Management Commission to focus on providing the government with an effective and systematic means of assessing drought conditions. It further recommended the forging of Public-Private Partnerships could be geared towards, for example, establishing forums to establish supportive financing terms, including subsidised interest rates and extensions to the capital repayment periods, etc.
AFASA stated there was an urgent need for a discussion between the government, financial institutions and agribusiness to determine how best to assist drought-stricken farmers and farmworkers, especially farmers that have been experiencing successive years of severe drought. To sustain its long term viability, the agriculture sector needs the following: fodder distribution, financial assistance, provision of bridging capital, and extension of production loan terms.
The Department assured the Committee it would continue to strengthen its early warning system to ensure those at risk are able to receive the messages on time and respond to the warnings of impending hazards for prevention and mitigation of disaster risks. The Department would continue to support Climate Smart Agriculture such as conservation agriculture and water efficiency; and would increase investment in land rehabilitation and veld management programmes for improved productivity of land and water storage capacity.
Though all the provinces claimed to be ready to plant, it became clear during the discussion that some provinces like North West were not ready and some provinces were not sure on the number of hectares to be planted. Mpumalanga was commended for the sterling work it has done.
Members wanted to understand where the Department was going in terms of the Climate Smart Agricultural Framework; wanted to find out if there had been discussions with the banks regarding loan repayments; wanted to establish the number of members AFASA was representing, and asked for clarity on transparency and accountability in terms of beneficiaries; asked how the Department determined how much each province needed for drought relief; and wondered if as a country we were smart enough in addressing water shortages and drought because countries like Egypt were producing goods though they are located in the desert.
From the provinces, they asked about the number of agricultural colleges they have got and budget breakdown; asked North West to clarify its arable land strategy; wanted to know how many hectares are planted on irrigated and dry land; pointed out they have not heard commitments from provinces on indigent communities who could not farm or produce, and asked if there were any plans in place; wanted to understand if all the farmers were familiar with conservation agriculture and if it was going to be followed in the rest of the country; remarked there has not been capacity in terms of research in provinces; and there has been no provision made to farmers for market access and it appeared the provinces were not prepared in this regard; and wanted to establish the kind of contracts that were in place for mechanisation service providers, the amount they were charging for services rendered, and who was monitoring their work.
Briefing by the Department, African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) & AgriSA
Mr Willem Symington, Head of Disaster, AgriSA, informed the Committee that so far South Africa remains a food secure country. The employment figure in the agricultural sector was standing at plus minus 850 000. There has not been enough rain for large scale plants in areas like Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and Eastern Free State. In some other areas like the Northern Cape, Limpopo, North West, and Western Free State, inputs were ready but farmers were not getting finance and were in too much debt.
Mr Symington touched on the financial constraints in drought-affected settlements. 37,44% settlements in South Africa were currently affected by drought. The real agricultural output was 9.2% lower in the first half of 2019 than in the corresponding period in 2018. The drought conditions of 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019 left many maize producers in the North West and parts of the Free State in a very challenging environment. Financial strain was increasing, the carry-over debt was rising and many were looking to alternatives in urban areas. During these years, producers not only suffered substantial yield losses, but several producers could also not plant their intended maize area. Late plantings and patchy rainfall are expected to negatively affect grains, while herds recover following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease.
In the livestock sector, several factors have combined to strain producer margins in 2019 such as rising feed prices resulting from the dry planting season as well as the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Q1 of 2019. With domestic consumer spending under pressure, the diversion of products that might otherwise have been exported into the domestic market caused prices to decline sharply despite constrained supply amid a cycle of herd rebuilding.
The Northern Cape has experienced severe drought. As a result, 15 000 farmers have been affected. It is estimated that the value of production during a normal situation in the affected area would amount to R2.53 billion per annum. The Northern Cape government has granted R30 million to drought relief.
Agri-Northern Cape estimates that current relief required amounts to R425 – R612 million. The province is yet to be declared a disaster area.
Drought conditions were persisting in the Western Cape, especially in the Karoo area. The Western Cape drought has had a big effect on total production, with export volume down by 25% on average when comparing the 5 years running from 2008/9 to 2012/13 to the 5 years from 2013/14 to 2017/18. This is the third season out of five production years that did not go well due to climatic conditions. According to the 3rd crop estimate, wheat production declined from 1.86 million tonnes in 2018 to 1.69 million tonnes in 2019. Although more hectares were planted in the Western Cape, year-on-year production decreased by 208 000 tons. 215 000 employees are dependent on agriculture.
The Eastern Cape has been declared a disaster area. This province has the highest concentration of poverty, but also the highest potential for agricultural development. The under-utilised arable land with its agricultural potential was on the decline due to escalating drought conditions. 96 000 employees are directly dependent on agriculture.
Lastly, Mr Symington mentioned some specific recommendations that have been made:
-The establishment of the National Drought Management Commission to focus on providing the government with an effective and systematic means of assessing drought conditions
-The establishment of the Disaster Fund: its management would have to be decided through an agreement among the sector stakeholders
-The forging of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that could be geared towards, for example, establishing forums to establish supportive financing terms, including subsidised interest rates and extensions to the capital repayment periods, etc.
-The establishment of a Multiperil Agricultural Insurance which could be used to support existing insurance options to which government could contribute in the form of insurance subsidies which could be used towards lowering the cost of insurance premiums as well as covering a portion of the excess not covered by insurers
-Accurate Early Warning System (EWS) could help in disaster risk reduction. This is a system where people receive relevant and timely information in a systematic way prior to disaster in order to make informed decisions and take action for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) elements.
-Emergency measures with regards to water and food relief
-Support towards the retention of farm workers and labour wage bill
-Bridging finance for affected farmers to manage down in the repayment of agriculture debt
-Interest subsidy on loans for replanting
-Tax breaks for farmers in need
-Financial assistance to buy fodder
Mr Chene Matidi, Director, AFASA, informed the Committee that contrary to the belief that the water crisis of the last few years would improve, drought has continued into 2019. It was causing more damage to the country. The drought disaster in Limpopo is at its worst. Those in the green industry were no longer planting. The fruit yield was no longer what it used to be because it has halved by 50%. Planting has been reduced. Poultry farmers have lost lots of chickens. Costs on jobs lost were not recoverable.
AFASA is pushing for a heightened awareness of the plight of farmers and impact overall, with a different approach to drought-related intervention beyond drought relief. Droughts have affected the national economy and local communities. The drought has created mounting pressures on the nation's agro-economic system, including household food insecurity, increased unemployment, migration, negative impacts on upstream economic activities (e.g. less purchase power) and increased debt service costs for farming enterprises.
Since January 2018, the agricultural sector shed 31,000 jobs in provinces severely affected by the drought and lost approximately R7 billion (turnover) due to drought, and 70% of respondents indicated that they struggle financially and that they find themselves in a weak financial position.
Citizens of neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Botswana that rely on food import from SA are hugely affected by the low agricultural productivity in South Africa. Reduced availability of basic foods like maize on the markets and high market prices are currently affecting food security in the southern African region.
AFASA, as a result of this, has, amongst other things, proposed immediate solutions:
- Align national and provincial strategies so that the drought disaster could be handled as a team
- Transparency and accountability in terms of plans and intended beneficiaries
- Financial and fodder support
- Consideration of boreholes for water access support
- Climate smart strategies and use of technology and introduction of appropriate crops
- Improved farmer support
Mr Matidi concluded that there was an urgent need for a discussion between the government, financial institutions and agri-business to determine how best to assist drought-stricken farmers and farm workers, especially farmers that have been experiencing successive years of severe drought. To sustain its long term viability, the agriculture sector needs the following: fodder distribution, financial assistance, provision of bridging capital, and extension of production loan terms.
Dr Ben Kgakatsi, Chief Director: Risk and Disaster Management, DALRRD, updated the Committee on the impacts of drought in the agriculture sector, focusing on current agricultural conditions, seasonal forecast, disaster risk reduction strategies, provinces affected by drought, interventions, and way forward.
Near normal to above normal rainfall has been received during winter over some parts of the Western Cape and Northern Cape. In other areas of the country, rainfall was generally below normal. Drought persists in several provinces including the Western Cape and Northern Cape. Water restrictions have remained in place in some provinces. The veld and livestock are in reasonable to poor condition in most provinces. Mortalities have been reported in the communal areas.
There were veld fires in several provinces. The average level of major dams has decreased in all provinces except in the Western Cape where they have increased.
He reported that there was uncertainty in the forecasting system. Higher than normal temperatures are expected from early-spring through to mid-summer for the northern most parts of the country. Below-normal rainfall over the central to south-eastern parts of the country were predicted during the late spring, while above-normal rainfall for the central and eastern parts is predicted to continue into mid-summer (Dec-Jan-Feb).
Concerning disaster risk reductions strategies, the Early Warning System (EWS) for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Information System has been developed for dissemination to provinces. However, in some provinces the early warning structure was not functional. Monthly NAC Advisories and daily extreme weather warnings are being issued. Public awareness and capacity building/ training is being provided, and the coping strategy booklets have been translated in all official languages with regard to drought, floods, veld fires, extreme temperatures (cold spells and heat waves) and migratory pests. The draft Climate Smart Agriculture Strategic Framework is in place. It deals with climate smart approaches.
On intervention, Dr Kgakatsi reported that the Department would implement climate change adaptation and mitigation sector plans, programmes and strategic frameworks would also be developed for the agriculture sector; the Department would ensure the implementation of contingency planning for climate related disasters; it would further implement adaptation strategies for identified vulnerable farming communities; it would improve climate information and communication services for effective communication between producers and end-users (farmers); and improve disaster risk reduction planning and implementation.
He assured the Committee the Department would continue to strengthen its early warning system to ensure those at risk are able to receive the messages on time and respond to the warnings of impending hazards for prevention and mitigation of disaster risks. The Department would continue to support Climate Smart Agriculture such as conservation agriculture and water efficiency; and would increase investment in land rehabilitation and veld management programmes for improved productivity of land and water storage capacity.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate dam levels per province, affected provinces, drought relief funding allocation, and seasonal forecast)
Briefings by the provinces
Western Cape Presentation
Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, Chief Director: Farmer Support and Development, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, reported there was a clear shift into higher-valued and exotic irrigation crops. The citrus production has increased by 40%. A decline in wine industry has been recorded. The shift from wine production to citrus production has been happening undercover. There were fewer orchards under irrigation, but there had been a shift into crops with higher water demand per hectare. The Western Cape total mix of field crops has remained relatively constant, but regional differences were evident. There had been a recorded increase in intensive livestock operations, particularly in poultry and feedlots. The Swartland area had shifted to cash crops and fallow, while the Southern area moved to fodder.
Ms Ashia Petersen, Director: Sustainable Resource Management: Western Cape Department of Agriculture, stated the province has been impacted by disasters in the last five years, especially drought, fires and floods. It was predicted the drought would continue for the next four years. The karoo region has received R170m for disaster support. 200 livestock farmers were receiving fodder support. The August 2019 interventions included alien clearing, removal of dead biomass in riparian zones, drilling and equipping of boreholes, training workshops, and fencing. The Kannaland drought intervention projects would be duplicated in other affected areas.
She reported that more than 2 500 farmers received fodder support every alternative month during the first six months of 2018 at approximately R26m per run. Currently, more than R1 500 farmers received fodder support at approximately R18m per run. 4 300 hectares have been planted during Quarter 2. The province was 100% ready for the planting season.
Partnerships are key to the work of the Department. It is leveraging resources and assets through these arrangements. It will continue with drought mitigation plans – farmers are encouraged to adopt new farming systems for adaptation to the new normal. It established an alternative crop fund – to increase the update by smallholder farmers, i.e. cherries (Drought mitigation effort). The extension messaging had been re-focused to include climate smart agriculture.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate drought funding allocation and areas receiving drought (fodder) support)
Northern Cape Presentation
Dr Phemelo Kegakilwe, Director, Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, stated the province was targeting to plant 885 hectares during the current financial year. All the Fetsa Tlala projects were under irrigation. The province had both winter and summer cropping. Wheat is usually planted in winter from 15 June to 15 July, depending on the cultivar. 117 hectares have been planted already. Wheat is then harvested during the months of November and December. Maize gets planted from 15 November to the 15 of December. The province used the same lands for both crops i.e. 117 hectares for wheat in winter and with an increase in hectares, 885 ha for maize. The province has procured production inputs to the value of R9 669 470m.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate number of projects and hectares per district, budget expenditure on production inputs, mechanisation projects, and verification of tractors)
Dr Jemina Moeng, Director: Smallholder Development, Limpopo Department of Agriculture, reported that the province experienced a significant increase in exposure to disasters, especially drought, veld fires, floods, and pest diseases over the last two years. Vulnerable smallholder farming communities were affected. Consequently, the Department has developed the Provincial Agricultural Disaster Risk Management Plan with the aim of achieving a proactive approach of managing agricultural disasters in the province.
Currently, the livestock was experiencing lack of grazing, and this has resulted in very poor livestock. Dam levels are at 49.9% this year compared to the 63.7% of last year. Crop farmers are severely affected, while dryland farmers are waiting for good rains to start ploughing. The province is facing severe drought conditions that have resulted in poor vegetation condition in all districts of Capricorn, Sekhukhune, Vhembe, Mopani, and Waterberg.
With regards to climatic forecast for the upcoming season, above normal rainfall were predicted over the Limpopo districts of Vhembe, Mopani, and Waterberg from November, December until February 2020. Extremely higher than normal temperatures were currently experienced and were predicted until January 2020.
Dr Moeng pointed out the Department would continue to provide farmers with timeous early warning information which includes prediction of seasonal forecast, provision of daily extreme weather warnings, market information, and advisory services that help the farmers cope well and thrive in all seasons. The Department would continue to assist rural owners whose livestock depend on natural grazing to feed and market their animals, especially in the FMD affected areas. Provision of livestock water, drilling and equipping of boreholes, and construction of water reservoirs were continuing. In this current financial period, an amount of R9m from CASP has been made available for the implementation of this programme. R3m from the Equitable Share was spent in this financial year on livestock feed so that livestock farmers in communal areas can feed their livestock to prevent livestock mortalities and ensure food security.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate seasonal forecasts, livestock feed distribution points, drought fund allocation, dam levels in the province, drought projects, and Land Care relief funding)
Dr Ngada, Director, Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, stated that the drought condition has been recurring in the province since 2012. The province had not received above average rains in last 6 months. The high humidity, increase in temperatures and declining water levels is exacerbated by climate change. The drought situation is more epic in rural areas particularly in Nkangala, Ehlanzeni and Bohlabela districts because of high rate of overstocking which leads to deterioration of natural resources. In Bohlabela district, which produces horticultural crops, sub-tropical fruits and livestock, the production capacity had drastically reduced the detriment of the small scale farmers as a result of insufficient rain and high temperatures. Rain-fed crops planted in the province are drying out. In Gert Sibande and part of the highveld escarpment of Ehlanzeni districts, farmers are experiencing uncontrolled wild fires which makes the drought situation even worse. Livestock loiter in grazing land in search for grass which is either extremely dry or burnt out. The current dry spell exposes the fuel load to wild fires which had presently gutted down more than 121 farms in the province. There are close to 8000 famers in the province affected by drought. About 11 cattle mortalities were reportedly caused by mushrooming of poisonous and inedible plants such as wild lantana in the Nkangala district. The livestock Body Condition Score (BCS) is now below 3.
The Department was partnering with Amakhosi (Traditional Leaders) in making land available for mass production of food, and practicing Smart Agriculture methods to beat impact of persistence drought and water shortages. Other partners included the district municipality and local municipalities and the private sector such as Sasol and Imvelo Kraal. This was in line with the District Development Model. Women, young people and people with disability were the main intended target market. They were participating in the Zonda Indlala and Zonda Insila Programmes.
Dr Ngada indicated the province was 100% ready for the planting season. It has been allocated R32 m. 12 060 hectares have been targeted for planting during this financial year. The number of beneficiaries was standing at 8 420. All production inputs have been distributed to farmers. Mechanisation support ,which consists of 124 tractors, has been provided to all the areas. Training workshops and extension and advisory services have been provided. 100% achievement has been recorded in all these areas.
Against a first quarter planned output of 583 hectares to be planted for food production, 318.5 hectares have been planted for food production. Against a second quarter planned output of 989 hectares to be planted for food production, 598.5 hectares have been planted for food production.
Regarding grain storage and processing, the province has 9 maize mills which need to be operationalised. The province has appointed an investor to assist in operationalising the mills and also to provide market for all maize output that the farmers would realize this season. This would be linked to the Government Nutrition Programme which is now managed by the DALRRD and Environmental Affairs Department. Both the Agri-Hubs of Mkhuhlu and Mkhondo would play major role in marketing agricultural products.
He pointed out challenges were around tractor breakages, drought spell that has resulted in difficulty to plough dry fields, and worn-out implements. To mitigate this, the Department would continue to make use of the water efficient and drought resistant WEMA / TELA seed; set aside enough budget to fix tractors through the youth mechanic training trainees; practise conservation agriculture; and procurement of new implements such as ploughs, discs, and planters.
Eastern Cape Presentation
Mr Leon Coetzee, Deputy Director-General, Eastern Cape Department of Agriculture, informed the Committee that the province has been declared as drought stricken. Drought effects have delayed soil preparation and planting of grain crops. Projected financial losses to accrue from livestock production are conservatively calculated to be a total of R6.4 billion, inclusive of a 3 year recovery period. Stockwater remains a challenge for livestock, and mortalities have been reported.
He reported that R394.9m was required to purchase animal feed, scooping of dams, and drilling and refurbishing of boreholes. A communication plan has been developed to engage all affected stakeholders. This would be done in collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Centre to roll out the plan and monitor climatic conditions. Roadshows would be held throughout the province to inform stakeholders of the impact of drought.
The province has adopted climate smart agriculture. Conservation agriculture would be implemented this season, including rain water harvesting systems. Weather stations have been sourced to reinforce early warning systems. Hectares under fodder production have been increased in areas under irrigation. Agriculture resources would be managed effectively, and short-term growing and drought resistant cultivars would be utilised for grain production.
Lastly, he said the province was planning to plant 5 045 hectares of land, but the drought has remained the biggest challenge and there has been limited mechanisation equipment. The provision of irrigation system was seen as one of the ways of overcoming these challenges, but service providers were delivering on time. If the drought was persisting, a request would be made to the national DALRRD for the redirecting of funds, so as to purchase fodder to support livestock and stock water, and to identify areas with irrigation to produce fodder and horticultural crops.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate rain forecast, state of readiness for cropping per district, and budget allocation)
North West Presentation
Mr Dipepeneneng Serage, Head of Department, North West Department of Agriculture, reported that the province had a target of 14550 hectares planned for food production for the year. The adjusted targets would be met provided that the requisite resources are provided. An additional of R32.7m was required at the current production cost of R6000,00 per ha. Recommended crops were cotton, yellow maize, dry beans, groundnuts and soya beans.
Challenges were around the lack of rainfall to date, especially in the summer growing areas. The province was experiencing a heat wave. With the budget allocated it was proving impossible to provide all required production inputs which are too costly. The machinery is inappropriate and there is slow adoption of conservation agriculture methods.
The province had successfully developed the Arable Farming Strategy, and it was standing at 80% state of readiness. The remaining production inputs would be supplied as at end of second week of November 2019. Maintenance at Taung Irrigation Scheme was still on-going. The support was continuing for 25 identified crop commercial farmers this planting season. There was collaboration with other stakeholders (Obaro, NWK, SENWES, DRDLR, ARC and LandBank).
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate budget allocation)
Free State Presentation
Dr Tankisi Masiteng, Acting Head of Department, Free State Department of Agriculture, said all districts in the Free State were affected by the mid-summer drought situation. Average dam levels in the Free State were not at higher levels and were at 62.55% and the capacity of dams was at an average of 73.33%. Nature Reserves earth dams were drying up and this was exacerbating the decrease in surface water, causing wildlife to get stuck and die in muddy water. Boreholes were drying up. Supplementary feeding was needed urgently. The total agricultural area in the Free State that is affected is estimated at 1 145 000 hectares that was planted in 2018/19.
As a result, specific projects were being undertaken:
- Silting, drilling and enhancement of boreholes with water reticulation: R10 million,
- Provision of Fodder for livestock: R50 million
- Provision of veterinary medication: R5 million
- Construction of firebreaks: R10 million
- Awareness campaign: R 1 250 million
Continuous drought intervention include dam desilting and borehole enhancement,
There are targeted awareness campaigns and extension services, and mechanical fire-breaks interventions. The average dam capacity is 12.79% lower than 2018. Expected rainfall for mid-summer period is expected to be above normal. Expected maximum temperature for the mid-summer period is expected to be above normal. Natural veld condition is fair, with constraint at commonage levels. Livestock conditions are fair. Financial access from banks for production has remained a challenge.
Due to financial constraints, farmers may not be able to plant cash crops leading to financial challenges. Currently, normal planting is expected if rains are received as per the seasonal forecast. Delay in rains was leading to change of crops and reduced hectares. The Department would continue to strengthen partnerships to ensure all farmers would have access to production inputs, market access and skills development interventions.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate rainfall forecast, state of readiness per district, and lists of beneficiaries that have received inputs and support)
Mr Masango Sifundza, Deputy Director-General, KZN Department of Agriculture, stated that 16162 hectares were planned for food production for the current financial period. But the weather conditions in the province were currently not conducive to commence in earnest with the summer planting season especially in the interior due to relatively dry and hot weather conditions.
This has affected not only the livestock, but has resulted in delays in the planting season. The province was currently monitoring the situation and conducting individual impact assessments. Above normal rainfall was predicted from November onwards, leaving a very tight window especially for the maize season.
The Department has in place two-year contracts with a panel of service providers for fertilizer, seeds, chemicals, mechanisation and machinery repairs to procure production inputs and repair tractors and implements. The existence of the contracts means that procurement of production inputs in the current financial year was much efficient than the previous years. The procurement process was 99% completed and approximately 80% of deliveries of production inputs have been delivered to ensure that planting starts on time.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate planned hectares per commodities, expected yield per commodity, budget allocation, and performance progress per quarter)
Mr Mncedisi Madolo, Chief Director, Gauteng Department of Agriculture, informed the Committee his province was 80% ready for the 2019/20 planting season. The targeted farmers were waiting for the arrival of rains before starting to work on the lands in preparation for planting. The Department had a target of 3600 hectares to be planted for food production during this financial year. The department has further rolled out a mechanisation programme for farmers in the form of tractors and equipment. Both tractors and equipment were rolled through a 3-tier as provided for by the Departmental Approved Mechanisation policy:
- Tier 1 consists of 42 tractors which have been allocated to municipalities
- Tier 2 consists of 37 tractors which have been allocated to co-operatives
- Tier 3 consists of 14 tractors which are operated directly by the department for food security projects and community gardens
The challenges facing Tier 1 were around compliance, operational capacity, and access to tractors. Municipalities were not complying in terms of reporting the hectares on a monthly basis. All the tractors at Sedibeng District Municipality were not functioning as there was no budget to manage and service all the tractors. There were no dedicated tractor drivers in many of the municipalities. Tractors were housed with Fleet Management and access by farmers remained elusive in some municipalities. Access to tractors by farmers remained a critical challenge due to demand for tractors which exceed supply and available capacity form the municipalities.
On Tier 2 challenges, he indicated that co-operatives are poor at record keeping and this was making it difficult to report usage and supply proof. The Department, as a result, has started a programme of visiting the farmers, monitoring, and subsequently recording the usage of tractors.
For emerging farmers who do not have large lands under cultivation and who have to make use of sub-contractors to cultivate their lands, the Department was providing support through Land and Agrarian Reform Programme. Seeing that agricultural machinery is very expensive and has high capital value, the department was looking into public-private-partnerships with IDC, NDA, DAFF, DRDLR, etc. on provision of agricultural machinery. The Department was further providing understanding of climate change and building awareness among the farming communities.
Lastly, he stated the procurement process for production inputs was concluded last year, and distribution was almost concluded. The timely rainfall would be useful for an anticipated good production season. The available mechanisation package for the province and the limited budget hinders a wider and extensive support to the entire farmers of the province.
Deliberations on AgriSA, AFASA and DALRRD
Ms T Breedt (FF Plus) wanted to understand where the Department was going in terms of the Climate Smart Agricultural Framework. She further asked for clarity on the issue of boreholes because underground water was not sustainable for long.
Dr Kgakatsi said the Climate Smart Agricultural Framework was being finalised and would be rolled out and be made available to the Committee. Public awareness about it has been done throughout the provinces. The Department was collaborating with the Department of Water and Sanitation on drilling new and repairing old boreholes.
Ms A Steyn (DA) wanted to know what happened to the disaster funding plan that was mentioned during the 2015/16 period. She wanted to find out if there had been discussions with the banks regarding loan repayments. She wanted to establish the number of members AFASA was representing, and asked for clarity on transparency and accountability in terms of beneficiaries. She also enquired if there have been many meetings held with counterparts regarding drought.
Dr Kgakatsi said COGTA and Agri-Union were some of the structures they were discussing drought with.
Mr Symington added there was a challenge with agriculture disasters. The problem was with COGTA on how to deal with the disasters. There was scope for the government to sort out the matters and build capacity within COGTA. He stated that all provinces had access to the drought fund. Aid has been provided by the private sector and was distributed to all needy people. They were interacting with banks. The Land Bank and some other commercial banks were doing as much as the laws were allowing them to help during disasters. AgriSA had spoken to the big banks and they have indicated they have got no mandate to up-skill small-scale farmers. So, there was a need to establish a bank that would assist small-scale farmers.
The Chairperson said there was a need to be creative in our approaches when looking for funding and consider institutions like the BRICS Bank, SADC Bank and China because those institutions had units that target the agriculture sector.
Mr Matidi stated the membership of AFASA was made up of over 3000 farmers from different commodities. He indicated it was true that transparency and accountability were lacking in terms of determining the allocations for the relief. The government policy in terms of drought relief was only geared towards livestock to the exclusion of crop production.
Mr N Masipa (DA) asked why it was difficult for farmers to get finance from the banks, and asked how the relationship was between AgriSA and the Department in terms of getting support for the farmers seeing that there was a R30m government support in place.
Mr Symington explained that the financial position the agriculture sector has found itself in has deteriorated over the years. Because of changing climatic conditions and drought, farmers were struggling to find assistance. There is a shortage of water and there is no scope for production. He further stated there was good interaction with stakeholders regarding the R30m relief. AFASA and AgriSA were trying to ensure the R30m was spent in a good way.
Dr Kgakatsi added that the R30m was just the start to address the emergency while waiting for the declaration of drought. CASP was benefitting small-scale farmers.
Mr M Montwedi (EFF) remarked that the lack of transparency and accountability meant that AFASA did not have a relationship with the government and it was not involved in the process to ensure support was going to the intended beneficiaries. He also indicated he was not seeing commitment from the government to support farmers because the Department was not procuring from its own entities and that the disaster has been there for almost five years.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) remarked that the proposed solutions AFASA was talking about in its presentation should reflect what was happening on the ground. She asked why the 2019/20 drought relief funding was only made to three provinces and if there was a good reason for that. She wanted to know if there were projects that were handled by youth and women in some of the transformation hubs AgriSA was talking about. She also remarked there were Eastern Cape municipalities that were not included on the municipalities listed for drought.
Mr Symington replied that agriculture was not a fashionable industry to attract young people. There was a dire need for capacity building. AgriSA was training youth and women on food production.
Dr Kgakatsi indicated the document that had listed municipalities affected by drought was from the provinces. It was unfortunate that the other affected municipalities in the Eastern Cape did not make it to the list.
Mr Matidi stated that drought should be declared in all provinces and not focus only on the three identified provinces.
Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) asked how the Department determined how much each province needed for drought relief.
Dr Kgakatsi said determinations on disasters were done by provinces and then discussed with National Treasury.
Ms N Mahlo (ANC) commended AFASA on its presentation but indicated it was not enough. She suggested the entity should increase its work so that it could be considered better. She further observed that AgriSA had talked of interest subsidy on production norms, but it does not appear there was a policy that talks about this to the communities.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) remarked that the Department appeared to be doing nothing for rural areas in terms of water conservation even though commercial farmers have got dams for conserving water.
Dr Kgakatsi explained that there was work that was being done in provinces in terms of rehabilitating dams, especially in rural areas in order to help small-scale farmers.
Mr N Capa (ANC) remarked that even though there was not enough rain, nothing has been said about alternatives by the Department.
Dr Kgakatsi stated the water strategy that was being developed was also considering the use of grey water.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) commented a dialogue was needed with the banks in order to assist farmers to get funding and be out of debt. She asked for clarity on Northern Cape as a disaster area and she wanted to know who declared the Eastern Cape as a disaster area. She also asked AFASA to assist the government with the farmers register so as to know the targeted beneficiaries.
Dr Kgakatsi stated they were waiting for COGTA to declare Northern Cape as a drought stricken province. The Eastern Cape has stated its declaration is legal.
The Chairperson wondered if as a country we were smart enough in addressing water shortages and drought because countries like Egypt were producing goods though they are located in the desert. Egypt was using SA technology for water conservation, but the SA was not using its own technology. He also noted that during drought periods many cattle farmers in rural areas were being offered less money for their livestock which was then taken to a feedlot for three months and then be sold at a very high price to the markets. He wondered if farmers have been given a good advice to sell their cattle when they are fat before or during drought.
Deliberations on the provinces
Ms Breedt asked the provinces on the number of agricultural colleges they had and for a budget breakdown. She asked North West to clarify its arable land strategy; and asked Gauteng what the state was of the tractors that were bought.
Dr Ngada stated there were moves in Mpumalanga to re-open the once existed agriculture colleges.
Dr Moeng said Limpopo had two colleges with 113 students.
Mr Coetzee replied the Eastern Cape had three colleges that were operational. The one in Tsolo was for the training of veterinary technicians, the Fort Cox one was offering various diploma courses, while the Grootfontein one was under the supervision of the department.
Dr Masiteng explained they have partnered with the Free State University with regard to the issue of veterinarians. They were also partnering with the ARC on water conservation in dry areas.
Mr Serage said the North West arable farming strategy would be made available to the Committee. It was currently in a draft format.
Mr Madolo stated they have brought the tractors for individual commercial farmers the Department has entered into contract with. The department was not using service providers.
Ms Steyn asked from which budget the Western Cape took its drought relief fund. She asked what the North West meant by 80% readiness; and asked the KZN if it was paying contractors for the R6m mechanisation. She remarked the Agri-Parks budget should be scrapped and be transferred to drought relief fund.
Ms Peterson said the Western Cape drought funding came from voted funds and CASP.
Mr Sifundza explained they were currently using mechanisation service providers. The tender went out and it targeted B-BBEE Level 1 companies. The service includes ploughing and discing at a rate of R125 per hectare.
Mr Serage stated the North West could have all the plans, but if it does not rain as it should, the province could not plant.
Mr Montwedi wanted to know how many hectares are planted on irrigated and dry land. He remarked that provinces were buying seeds to plant, but they were not planting the seeds so as to contribute at a lesser cost. He also commended Mpumalanga for training the youth to be tractor mechanics.
Dr Ngada indicated that the training of the young was also a cost-saving exercise because the youth were trained to fix the tractors and to be the drivers of them. He also indicated the involvement of young people in the programme of Zonda Indlala has provided them with jobs and it was addressing the problem of ageing farmers.
Dr Kgekaliwe said 2000 hectares had been planted in the dry land of Namaqua, and on the irrigated land they depended on the Orange and Vaal Rivers. He also indicated there was no agriculture college in the Northern Cape.
Mr Sifundza said most hectares to be planted in KZN would be on dry land.
Ms Mahlatsi remarked there had not been capacity in terms of research in provinces; and there has been no provision made to farmers for market access and it appeared the provinces were not prepared in this regard. She further suggested the agriculture colleges should try escalating in their curriculum veterinarian studies, even if they do not reach the university level.
Ms Peterson said when it comes to market access for farmers, the Western Cape was busy piloting a Japanese model to produce with a market in mind rather than thinking about the market after production or harvesting.
Ms Mahlo wanted to know how the North West was going to deal with irrigation schemes that needed maintenance. She commended Mpumalanga for its sterling work, and urged Limpopo to start working closely with its communities.
Mr Serage indicated the irrigations schemes were not farmed by the people. People were being robbed by big players who were taking the rest of production and pay people little money.
Mr Cebekhulu observed that some people in rural areas had tractors, but they were not used by the Department because it claims they were not contracted by it. Those people with tractors should be assisted so that they could compete with the commercial farmers. He also wanted to know what happened to the fleet of tractors that was provided to Empangisweni to assist in the mechanisation programme, but now there was only one tractor left.
Mr Sifundza stated the Empangisweni Mechanisation Service was still in existence, but asked to submit more details in writing.
Mr Capa pointed out he had not heard commitments from provinces on indigent communities who could not farm or produce, and asked if there were any plans in place. He stated farm dwellers needed to be assisted so that they could farm on the land they were working on.
Mr Sifundza sated there had been commitment from the KZN to help indigent households. Alternatives were prioritised for the people who could not do anything for themselves.
Ms Tlhape observed that most provinces were not sure about the number of hectares that needed to be planted. She added that the 2030 vision of the NDP had targets of hectares to be planted, but nothing was mentioned about meeting those set targets. She was not convinced about the Free State borderline readiness. Finally, she noted that many provinces were planting fodder than crops, especially in North West.
Dr Masiteng stated the damage that has been done by the drought to the crops was estimated to be at R80m.
Mr Serage informed the Committee the fodder had its own intended beneficiaries. The current system in the country was such that they could advise the farmers, but not tell them what to do.
The Chairperson wanted to understand if all the farmers were familiar with conservation agriculture and if it was going to be followed in the rest of the country. He wanted to establish the kind of contracts that were in place for mechanisation service providers, the amount they were charging for services rendered, and who was monitoring their work.
Dr Masiteng said the Free State was already into conservation agriculture because it had already bought implements.
It must be noted all provinces indicated there were following the same procurement process in terms of mechanisation and the rates have been approved by Treasury.
The Chairperson thanked the provinces and members for their inputs and indicated the meeting was to share with the Committee information on readiness to plant during the 2019/20 financial period seeing that drought and water shortages were proving to be the main challenges. The Department was reminded to submit all outstanding matters to the Committee in two weeks time.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Western Cape Province presentation
- DAFF - Summary on Targets and Budget for the 2019/20 Planting Season
- KwaZulu Natal Province presentation
- North West Province presentation
- DAFF - Drought and its Impact on the Agricutural Sector
- Mpumalanga Province presentation
- Free State Province presentation
- Eastern Cape Province presentation
- Gauteng Province presentation 1
- Gauteng Province presentation 2
- Northern Cape Province presentation
- Limpopo - Drought and its impact on the agricultural Sector
- Limpopo - Readiness for 2019/20 Planting Season
- AFASA Drought Report
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