Minister progress report: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

12 February 2020
Chairperson: Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

NCOP Hansard: 13 June 2017

The Deputy Minister represented the Ministry in its report-back on its 2017 executive undertakings. The reconfiguration of government departments after the 2019 elections meant that it was difficult to give a full picture as Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) no longer existed.

The Committee was not happy with the reported performance achievements after two years and eight months. Also it found the information provided was far too insufficient. It gave the Department of Agriculture two weeks to report in writing.

The Deputy Minister agreed and undertook to provide the information. He commented that people are being shortchanged. They cannot say it was the Minister of the past, as they are now in charge, they have inherited this. Perhaps they should have better planning. They will go back and do that.

Meeting report

The Department of Agriculture delegation included: Mr Mike Mlengana: Director General; Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi: Deputy Director General (DDG): Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety; Mr Andile Hawes: DDG: Food Security and Agrarian Reform; Mr Joe Kgobokoe: DDG: Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; Ms Alicia Stevens: Chief Director: Operations Support.

Mr Mike Mlengana, Director General: Department of Agriculture, said that the presentation on the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries June 2017 undertakings had been overtaken by a series of structural and institutional events. The National Macro Organisation of Government had been a disruption to the DAFF programme. The presentation however still poses questions about jobs and being audited as the former DAFF. These issues have not been overtaken. As the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is now merged with Agriculture, he suggested the Committee should request the NCOP House Chairperson to focus on those items that pertain to Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to the degree that they talk to job creation and the general development of economic growth.

For example, in 2017/18 DAFF was dealing with agriculture and agro-processing. They called it a value chain in that you start with primary production but also put emphasis on it right up until the sales part. This means that if the farmer produces maize, then as the producer he must sell maize meal.

The Deputy Minister arrived while the DG continued with the presentation.

Strategic Approach
The Department of Agriculture, then called DAFF, had an operational action plan for Operation Phakisa, a process by government learned from Malaysia about speed and getting big results. They called all stakeholders and asked how fast they can implement government programmes. Now they call it revitalisation of agriculture under the 9-Point Plan and is referred to as the Revitalisation of the Agriculture and Agro-processing Value Chain (RAAVC). The two Departments have now been merged as the Committee is aware. A major problem currently is that the three spheres of government are implementing different policies under different Acts.

Establishment of Fisheries Transformation Council
They wanted to prioritise this. The executive authority decided not to appoint the Council and Fisheries is no longer part of the Department.

Fishing Rights Allocation Process, 2020
This is being transferred to the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries (DEFF).

Mr Mlengana remarked that the creation of jobs is a significant topic and that they could talk about it during question time.

Poultry production and creation of jobs
R128 million rand has been allocated which is expected to create 1 789 jobs.

Transformation Imperative
The Female Entrepreneur Awards (FEA) Programme was noted. Mr Mlengana said that they ensure women are involved especially in ensuring they become commercialised and have open access to markets. 460 women across the country benefited from the programme and they are now operating as small holders. The view is to put them in a partnership with established commercial farmers.

The poultry industry in particular is protecting small holder farmers, but it needs to ensure more margins from their investment.

The Minister is committed to targeting young people who are unemployed through mentorship and exposure to commercial farms. Currently, 3 654 unemployed graduates benefited.

They are re-purposing unemployed youth by taking them to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) first for discipline because “we need production discipline”. From there they are taken to various locations and put them under skilled commercial farmers to become producers within a defined market to monitor their productivity.

Health and Food Safety
The branch dealing with health and food safety is critical to detect potential outbreaks that could affect the sector. National Treasury had asked the Department how it is dealing with foot and mouth disease, swine fever outbreaks coming out now. A critical challenge is the lack of capacity, skills, vets, animal technicians health inspectors — the sector is lacking. Treasury has been asked for funding because there is a lack of funding for this branch. It disrupts our economy domestically but the Department is taking its bio-security commitments seriously.

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi: Deputy Director General (DDG): Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, continued the presentation and spoke to funding. Page 13 of the presentation outlined the MTEF framework allocated to the Health and Food Safety branch responsible for bio-security in the country. The total allocated for 2020 is R147 million. There is another R82 million going to specific items which were itemised at the bottom of page 13. He said they are grateful for the money from Treasury and think it will advance what they need to do.

The Deputy Minister was welcomed by the Chair and asked if he wanted to comment.

Deputy Minister Sdumo Dlamini replied that he did not have anything to add but he was aware of the Treasury discussions underway.

Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) said that the DG said the report is based on the executive undertakings of 2017 but they are reporting to us in 2020. The expectation is for a fully updated report on how far they are with every executive undertaking. It does not make sense. We are not getting sufficient information to properly interrogate what has been presented to us.

On the Revitalisation of the Agriculture and Agro-processing Value Chain (RAAVC), she asked if what was presented are the 25 initiatives, as most are behind schedule. The major problem is integration across spheres of government — this is about cooperative government. Tell us what has been done to address this problem? How are they dealing with the problem? We cannot just be told it is a problem.

Another issue is that the poultry projects are not completed, and there are no updated reports from the provinces. We should not take this lightly. The Department should have come with the latest information. What is being done about getting current executive undertakings? Where is the Ministry on this?

Mr A Gxoyiya (ANC, Northern Cape) said that they are being shortchanged by the Department. The DG says that the presentation has been overtaken by events. There was sufficient time to update the information and send it to the Committee. We do not take kindly to that. We feel disempowered to engage. We are engaging from a point of ignorance. We need statistics on whether the input is producing the output expected. We need information about support to emerging farmers, in particular, for job creation. The report is silent on emerging farmers as job creators, so its missing information the Committee needs clarity on.

On page 7, it says that R128 million was allocated, but expenditure sits at R62 million. We are in another financial year now. We need accurate statistics. We need to be advised how performance management is dealt with. Provinces are not here in the report. Is it by omission? My interest is Northern Cape because I have to confront the province. If the province is non-compliant let us be informed so we can confront them. We need jobs yesterday. We do not know what support the Department gives to female farmers to capacitate them. Do they emerge on their own and then get support? How many female farmers disappear because of no support?

Page 9 of the presentation is statistical information, yet the DG said "it is overtaken by events", therefore he cannot comment on that. On page 10, the DG said that graduates are taken to programmes. Mr Gxoyiya asked if there is a clear exit strategy where the Department capitalizes on them, where they start their own practices?

Mr Gxoyiya said that the report speaks about reactive instead of proactive measures for animal diseases. There is nothing about prevention. It is cheaper to prevent than to cure. What has the Department done? What preventative measures are there?

Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said that they need to look in terms of the financial years. For government not to be able to commit to deliver in two to three financial years does not hold water. Why is it so difficult to reach their targets? Unemployment needs to be addressed and not just talked about as 58% are youth.

All Departments have these projects where they make young unemployed people employable. What is sad is that this group of people is still unemployed. We give them skills, then let them be. There is no guarantee of being employable to contribute to what must be done in the country. It is nice to have youngest female farmer but one wants to see these persons invested in going on to employ other people. We must see the impact of the money government is spending.

Ms C Visser (DA, North West) said she is shocked to see how much land is lying arid in her constituency. She is also shocked to see the soil and the condition of farmland deteriorating. Grazing for cattle is becoming less and less in these areas. Farmers say the Department comes too late. They appear too late. Farmers say they do not have diesel to work the land. The seeds come when it is dry after the rain has fallen. There are no samples and analysis of the soil. She wants to see the Department of Agriculture being on hand so it knows what is going on. It cannot do it from offices in Cape Town. Animals are dying because there is no grazing. Farmers need to have constant education. We are sitting with climate change. New products are needed for success in agriculture and farming. We cannot let arid land lie around. We need to produce food on every inch of land we have.

Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) said he joined his colleagues in the disappointment. These executive undertakings were made in June 2017. But two years eight months later, these undertakings are still not fulfilled. The Department today was supposed to say that they were afforded more than enough time and that they had implemented all the undertakings. They are not doing so. Some projects are incomplete and no proper reasons are given for being behind schedule. They say it is because of a lack of integration between different spheres of government. I think that is a scapegoat. Agriculture and food security are the centerpiece of this government, especially in rural areas. Only six provinces are catered for in the presentation — they do not even have Eastern, Western and Northern Cape. These projects are still not complete. This is scandalous. We need some intervention to solve these problems.

These projects have to do with land reform and Operation Phakisa. Are they behind schedule since the commitments were made? It is three financial years. This is problematic. The Department must go back to the drawing board and take the Committee and the people they serve very seriously. Executive commitments are very serious and they must be done. Or there must be clear reasons why they are not done. They must go back and look at what the Department is doing. When they come to the Committee, there must be targets and deliverables.

The Chairperson said that the Committee wants to know the reasons. The executive undertaking must be implemented and the Ministry must tell them the reasons if not. She was in full agreement with her colleagues, there is serious disappointment in the Department. The Department was lucky to have three to four months to prepare and then the Committee got this half-cooked presentation. They must go back and respond in writing. Another key undertaking was looking at how to cut down on the killing of farmers. What is the plan for this undertaking? You can respond to some questions now, but you must respond in writing because we need an updated response. This report has been overtaken by events but it does not stop you from giving us the latest information.

The DG said that he will allow the managers to respond.

One Deputy Director General replied that they will provide comprehensive written responses. They will add to what the DG said. The information provided in some areas is not the latest, but others are. They will emphasise the work that is still continuing and they will provide comprehensive details.

Mr Ramasodi replied about diseases. He said that a commitment was made in 2017, and it is critical to capacitate animal production and prevent potential disease outbreaks. On job creation, he noted that the Quarterly Labour Force Survey had been released the previous day. Agriculture has grown its jobs by 4 percent every year. Year by year, agriculture grows.

Deputy Minister Dlamini said that he has been listening to the comments, and it is clear that the Committee is not happy with their work, and more than enough time was given to them - three financial years - to do the work. Further, the Committee feels that we have been economic in giving out information and are limiting your ability to engage. You would like us to go back and provide information. Thank you for giving us the luxury of our managers saying something. Unfortunately I share your feelings. We have not included such information around what is being doing, how many are employed; so you ask the questions. We can say a lot of things. There are shortcomings and positive points. In essence we are serving the people of South Africa, to ensure they become winners. Are people not being shortchanged? We cannot say it was the Minister of the past, we are now in charge, we have inherited this. Maybe we should have better planning. I am joining the Director General in saying we will go back and do that.

The Chairperson gave the Department of Agriculture two weeks and said that they must not be found wanting in terms of their own executive undertakings. They must only report on their own department, and their responsibility is to be in line with their own department. If issues overlap, then the other department must come with its own information. The Committee is unhappy about the work done. As we move on, we will be happy with each other.

The meeting was adjourned.


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