The Select Committee met virtually with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development for a report back on how the Department was ensuring that the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) expands markets for domestic production, particularly produce from inland provinces on our borders with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
The Committee also received an update on the Sectional Titles Amendment Bill [B31B-2020].
The DALRRD presentation outlined implications of the agreement for the section; the role of the Department; supportive initiatives for domestic production; SADC countries with agricultural export potential for South Africa; non-SADC countries with export potential for South Africa and the top five agri-products exported between South Africa and Africa (2020).
The AfCFTA was signed on 21 March 2018 to boost Intra-Africa Trade and bring together 55 Member States within the African Union to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and thus accelerate establishment of a Customs Union. South Africa participates as part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The agreement seeks to create a single, larger preferential regional market for the sector. The DALRRD’s main role in the agreement is in ensuring a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and it therefore participated in negotiating various instruments.
The ensuing discussion by Members concerned operationalisation of the AfCFTA and the economic impact thereof; the pursuit of agriculture exports; assistance of smallholder farmers, especially black smallholder farmers; achievement of the trade tariff lines and market expansion for South African agriculture produce under the Free Trade Agreement. Members asked how the Free Trade Agreement would facilitate the free movement of goods from inland provinces bordering with SADC countries; ensure that South Africa’s food security is not compromised; performance, successes, challenges, and plans to review the Free Trade Agreement.
The Committee requested that the Department provide Members with a copy of the agreement on the AfCFTA. The Committee requested to provide a more detailed written response to questions raised by Members as the questions were not sufficiently responded to. Members would also be provided with an opportunity to submit further questions, which the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) would also be required to provide written responses to.
The Committee discussed an update as to the Sectional Titles Amendment Bill, particularly the confusion concerning the tagging of the Bill. When the Bill was referred to the Committee, it was referred to as a section 75 Bill when it was a section 76 Bill. This was rectified and an amendment was inserted. The programme was being redrafted and the section 76 process was being put in motion. A further update would be provided to Members.
The Committee was to do oversight on the Bill in the Western Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. This would take place in June 2022 and the programme would be sent to Members. The remaining five provinces, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, and Northern Cape, would be visited under the Gas Bill once it had arrived.
Mr Asgar Bawa, Committee Secretary, said that the Chairperson was experiencing problems connecting to the meeting and asked that Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) chair the meeting in the interim until the Chairperson’s signal was sorted out. He further noted all Members in attendance.
The Acting Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and read through the agenda.
Ensuring the Operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Expands Markets for Domestic Production, in particular, the produce from inland provinces that are bordering SADC Countries
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Director-General, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), introduced the presentation. Ms Phindiwe Dingile, Chief Director: International Relations and Trade, covered the following sections of the presentation:
• Implications of the Agreement for the Section;
• The role of DALRRD;
• Supportive initiatives for domestic production;
• SADC countries with agricultural export potential for South Africa;
• Non-SADC countries with export potential for South Africa;
• Top five agri-products exported between South Africa and Africa (2020); and
The AfCFTA was signed on 21 March 2018 to boost Intra-Africa Trade and bring together 55 Member States within the African Union to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and thus accelerate establishment of a Customs Union. South Africa participates as part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
The agreement seeks to create a single, larger preferential regional market for the sector. The DALRRD’s main role in the agreement is in ensuring a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and it therefore participated in negotiating various instruments.
These included the following:
• Annex on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures;
• Annex on Rules of Origin (ROO); and
• Development of the SACU Tariff Offer
All ROO was concluded except for Sugar Heading 1 702 and 1 704 but the DALRRD continues to form part of negotiations. The SPS work programme was drafted in 2021 and the webinar for launching the questionnaire on updating SPS stocktaking document was held in April 2022.
Market opportunity research has been conducted and strategic markets beyond SADC identified. South Africa had a Free Trade Agreement with SADC over the past decade therefore, most new opportunities of the AfCFTA would come mostly outside SADC. DALRRD continues to form part of the negotiation for the unresolved rules of origin.
SADC countries with agricultural export potential for South Africa were identified, with the total untapped potential for the SADC Free Trade Agreement being R 602 million. The non-SADC Africa with agricultural export potential for South Africa was also identified, indicating the realistic opportunities for South African agriculture to AfCFTA (excluding SADC).
(See document for details.)
Mr A Arnolds (EFF, Western Cape) noted the presentation. It was known that there was huge economic potential, not only for South Africa as a country but for the African continent as a whole because AfCFTA would be the largest Free Trade area. However, without infrastructure trade would always be a challenge. Agriculture exports for the country needed to be untapped, which the DALRRD had to be vigorous in terms of their pursuit thereof. The DALRRD also had to ensure that those smallholder farmers, especially black smallholder farmers, were well assisted and aware of all of the opportunities in terms of markets. When will the Committee get to the 100% of the trade tariff lines, seeing that it was only at 87%? This was very important in terms of the process that was currently being run. It was commendable that Members knew that the DALRRD was also part of the Interdepartmental Forum and national negotiating team in terms of the country's interest.
The Acting Chairperson said that the DALRRD had placed a lot of emphasis on market expansion for South African agricultural produce under the agreement. How would the agreement facilitate the free movement of goods from the inland provinces bordering SADC countries? Some African countries are already experiencing severe food shortages. How will the DALRRD ensure that South Africa’s food security is not compromised?
According to slide 13, the DALRRD mentioned that South Africa had a Free Trade Agreement with SADC. Over the past decade, how has this Free Trade Agreement performed? What have its successes and challenges been? Are there any plans to review it?
She requested the DALRRD to provide the Committee with copies of the agreement on the AfCFTA. This would assist the Committee in enhancing its oversight role over the DALRRD.
She thanked the DALRRD for presenting.
Ms Dingile responded to the issue of smallholder farmers and them getting assistance. She confirmed that it was part of the DALRRD’s work, which they were undertaking.DALRRD started with a round of webinars, invited the smallholder farmers per province and held the national webinar to ensure that the DALRRD kept them up to date with the relevant updated information. The DALRRD also assisted provinces close to the producers and farmers in training them in international trade information. She commented on food security issues and how the DALRRD was ensuring that South Africa was not compromised. She thought that the question was indicating whether, when the DALRRD exported, they also considered the needs of local consumers. Indeed, the DALRRD would say that it was their preference and that it was managed through their food security strategy.
The DALRRD understood the recent challenges linked to the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, and other provinces, threatening South Africa’s status. At this point, she understood that there were assessments that were being undertaken and the DALRRD would be able to clearly understand the situation, which products required more attention, and which products could be indicated that they could be exported. In the main, the DALRRD was ensuring that food security was a priority in the country and is therefore placed at the apex of ensuring the measures that are put in place.
On the copies of the AfCFTA, as thick as it was, she thought that the DALRRD would be able to share the link with the Secretariat to ensure that every Member was able to visit it at any time when it was conducive. So far, the DALRRD had not prepared any hard copies, but she thought it would be fair and ideal to share the soft copy link.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the DALRRD for coming to the Committee and presenting to Members. She asked the Committee Secretary to indicate whether the Committee had the necessary quorum to continue with the rest of the meeting.
The Committee Secretary said that during the response from the DALRRD, the reception was very bad and Members could hardly hear the responses. Further, the first set of responses did not come from the DALRRD. He suggested that the Committee ask the DALRRD to respond in writing to all of the questions put to them.
He had seen that some Members were experiencing network issues. He would thus also send an email or message to all Members to say that if they had questions, they could send it to him and he would have it sent to the DALRRD so that the latter could respond.
Even until now, the Chairperson was struggling to get onto the system and he knew that Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) would have asked questions. People were having network issues all over the country and he asked whether, through the Acting Chairperson, the DALRRD could respond to all Members’ questions in writing as they had not been answered. The Acting Chairperson could set a date for when the written responses would be due, and he would also forward any questions from Members to the DALRRD.
The Acting Chairperson said that she understood and hoped that Members and the DALRRD understood. Members were to agree to send questions to the Committee Secretary so that the DALRRD could respond to them. Regarding how this would be done, the Committee Secretary would guide the Committee as to when the DALRRD responses would be received and the Committee could perhaps work on it after the meeting.
The Committee Secretary said that normally the Chairperson would give the Department until the following Monday. He would therefore say that for the questions posed by Members in this meeting, the DALRRD could respond to the Committee by Friday, 20 May 2022. He would then collate the rest of the questions via mail and the responses to those questions could be sent in the following week.
The DALRRD was excused.
Committee update on the Sectional Titles Amendment Bill [B31B-2020] S76
The Committee Secretary provided the Committee with a background of where the confusion came from regarding tagging the Bill. The confusion came from the referral of the Bill in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) to the Committee. When the Bill was referred to the Committee in the ATC, it was referred as a section 75 Bill. When the DALRRD came to brief the Committee a week or two ago on the Bill, the parliamentary legal advisor and departmental legal advisor raised the issue. They were under the impression that it was a section 76 Bill. The Committee accepted the briefing with a question mark to determine whether it was a section 75 or 76 Bill. After that meeting, he went and looked further into the matter. The Bill was incorrectly referred to the Committee in the ATC. The ATC was thus referred incorrectly and the Bill was, in fact, a section 76 and not a section 75 Bill.
The ATC has been rectified and an amendment was made in the previous week. He said that he would send a copy of that ATC to Members. He reiterated that the Bill was incorrectly referred to the Committee and that that was where the problem started. He was busy redrafting the Committee programme to now bring everybody on board because the NCOP and Chief Whip’s Office had to be informed. As everything was programmed as a section 75, this had to be undone and the section 76 process had to be put in motion. He had already informed all of the relevant offices and he was busy doing a programme. As soon as he was done with the programme, he would send it to the Committee but he just wanted to give Members an update that the problem was resolved and that the Committee would move forward.
The Chairperson had a comment but asked that the meeting not be passed over to her as she did not trust her network. She thought that the Committee Secretary should explain to Members that the Committee would be doing a public hearing, only in the metros, for the Bill. Here, she referred to the big metros as the Bill had nothing to do with the rural areas. Again, this was based on the Gas Bill coming very soon and the Committee would cover all provinces that they did not go to with the Gas Bill. She also asked that the Committee Secretary tell Members which date they had proposed, somewhere around 24 June 2022. Could this be explained to Members to prepare themselves to go for those oversight visits? Because the Committee did not have time, they had decided to take two provinces per week: two days in one province and two days in another province.
The Committee Secretary said that, in a nutshell, the Committee had decided to do oversight on the Bill. The provinces chosen for the Bill would be the Western Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. The Committee was just trying to sort out which province would be visited in which week. This would take place within the last two weeks of June 2022. He said that he would send everything out when he sent the programme to Members, spelling out where and when. There would be four provinces, being two provinces per week. The remaining five provinces that the Committee did not do would then be done when the Gas Bill from Minerals came. The Committee would then choose those five provinces: Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, and Northern Cape. For now, the oversight and public hearings would be in the last two weeks of June 2022, just before the Committee broke up for the second term. This would all be explained in the programme as soon as he sent it out. He confirmed that the Committee formed a quorum to consider and adopt the Committee minutes.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) raised the fact that the Bill was not actually only restricted to metros as even small towns had sectional title units. He just wanted to correct that.
The Chairperson said that the legal advisors advised the Committee that the Bill had nothing to do with the rural and small town areas. It was not the Committee that said that they were going to visit only metros; the Committee had been advised. The Committee could not deal with a bill without getting advice from the legal advisors.
Mr Smit heard what the Chairperson said but said it was not correct. There were sectional titles in every town right through the county, and he was staying in a small town and there were sectional titles there. It was not true that it was only metros.
Consideration and Adoption of Minutes
Committee minutes dated 3 May 2022
The Committee adopted the minutes.
Committee minutes dated 5 May 2022
The Committee adopted the minutes.
The meeting was adjourned.
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