NCOP: Unrevised hansard – 9 March 2021
NCOP: Unrevised hansard – 11 March 2021
The Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings held a virtual meeting to oversee and scrutinise the implementation of the executive undertakings made by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, and by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, during NCOP sittings in March 2021.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) highlighted significant progress in implementing the executive undertaking. It had successfully engaged with the Chinese government to relist the oyster species exported by South Africa, which had been banned due to a classification error. It has also conducted feasibility studies on serving locally produced aquaculture products in residential institutions, such as correctional services facilities.
Members of the Committee acknowledged the progress with the undertaking. They sought more clarity on the timeline for the completion of the EU physical audit, which had been delayed by a backlog caused by Covid-19, and the exemptions that would help to address red tape challenges.
Due to the absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the Committee could not accept a report by the Department.
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment
Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, introduced the officials of the Department.
Ms Sue Middleton, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Fisheries Management, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), updated the Committee on the undertaking made in the NCOP on 9 March 2021.
Concerning finding a market for aquaculture products in the European Union (EU), the EU had assessed South Africa's readiness to meet the export requirements. Recommendations were received and addressed by the Department and other government entities. A formal application had been made to the EU to export mussels and abalone to the EU. The EU was to have done a physical audit of the products, but it had indicated that it had a backlog because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The timeframe for the audit was solely dependent on the EU timeframes.
Regarding negotiations with the Chinese government on the oyster species, the Chinese government had relisted the species as of September 2021, and companies have been exporting oysters to that country since then. To reduce red tape to allow abalone to be sold on the local market, rather than total reliance on the export market, the DFFE had made efforts to reduce the red tape by granting a blanket one-year exemption to allow abalone farmers to sell abalone on the local market under strict conditions. The strict conditions ensured they were not putting poached abalone on the market. This was a positive initiative in the industry, and a new exemption was granted in November 2021 for a year until October 2022.
Regarding conducting feasibility studies on serving locally produced aquaculture products such as tilapia and catfish in residential institutions such as correctional facilities, the Department conducted a feasibility study on catfish in the correctional service facility in Kirkwood in 2021. There had been positive feedback from the Department of Correctional Services. The Department was about to launch a pilot on tilapia in the correctional services of Gauteng.
Regarding the panel of experts on the conservation of sharks, the Department had developed an action plan with all relevant stakeholders for priority one actions, having completed the action plan for priority two actions the previous day.
Ms Frances Craigie, Chief Director: Sector Enforcement, DFFE, reported on the Phakisa 5 actions. Planned operations had looked at certain compliance and enforcement operations and activities on shark species, and several criminal cases emanated from operations focused on illegal activities involving shark fins. The implementation plan of the national plan of action (NPOA) would increase the number of operations targeting the protection of shark species.
Ms Middleton commented on mainstreaming the recommendations into the Department's annual performance plan (APP) and into the Oceans and Coasts and Fisheries branches. The Fisheries branch had included the NPOA in its APP. The target for the 2022/2023 financial year was to approve the NPOA implementation plan for sharks. The detailed roadmaps to deliver milestones for individual actions had been developed and were on track.
Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) asked for clarity on China wrongly listing the species from the country, and the timeframe for the EU audit.
Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) acknowledged that significant progress had been made in the undertakings. She asked how granting exemptions was addressing the challenges of red tape.
Ms Middleton responded that the Chinese had erroneously recorded the wrong scientific name for the oyster species, resulting in the ban on oysters' export to the country. They had recorded a name of oysters that were not grown in South Africa, but as a result of engagement with the Chinese government and the embassy, the Department had been able to correct the mistake. The ban was lifted since September 2021, and South Africa has been exporting oysters since then.
Regarding abalone, the exemption had assisted farmers in accessing the local markets quickly, as the regulations under the Marine Living Resources Act had stipulated that they could only sell abalone that had reached a size of 114 mm. The size had been reduced to 9 mm for the local market, which would do away with the requirement that every retailer would need their own permit to sell abalone on the local market. The exemption therefore did away with all the permitting requirements. The Department would later review if the protocols were sufficient.
Ms Bartlett asked about the EU timeframes.
Ms Middleton said the timeframes were out of the DFFE's control, and they had no way of knowing how long the EU would take to clear the backlog.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environments was excused.
Ministers not available for meeting
Ms Shaikh said that since both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development were not available for the meeting, the Committee had to find another time to meet the Department, since these were executive undertakings and the executives were not available.
The Chairperson said they would write a letter to express the view that the Committee was not happy that the Minister and the Deputy Minister were not present for the meeting.
Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Director-General (DG), Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), asked if the Department would be allowed to give an update on the undertakings. He said the Minister was engaged in discussions with the Women in Agriculture in the Stilbaai municipality, and she had given a mandate that they could present an update.
The Chairperson said it was more appropriate if the Minister was there, since these were executive undertakings.
Ms Bartlett supported the suggestion that the Ministers should be present and a letter should be written.
Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said that the issue of Ministers not coming to the Committees had been happening for years. It did not make sense that the Ministers were not attending the meeting. They needed to get their act together.
The Chairperson requested the secretariat to write a letter to the DALRRD notifying it that the Committee could not take the report from the DG without the Minister or Deputy Minster's availability. She released the Department.
The Chairperson advised the Committee that she had requested an oversight visit to Sekhukhune, where the situation had worsened, since they were still not getting water. She requested those available to go to Sekhukhune on 25 August to do oversight, and would update the Committee on whether the request for the visit had been granted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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