Department of Agriculture Budget briefing

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 May 2001
AGRICULTURE BUDGET EXPENDITURE FOR 2001/2

Chairperson: Mr P Holomisa

Documents handed out
Department of Agriculture Budget: Vote 24
Presentation slides of Estimates of Expenditure: 2001/2

SUMMARY
The Department of Agriculture presented its budget for the year 2001/2. Committee members raised their concern about missing detail in the budget, especially programmes aimed at developing people at grassroots level.

MINUTES
Mr T Marais, Director: Financial Administration in the Department, presented the estimated expenditure for 2001/2 showing how the national department intended to spend the money allocated to them by Parliament. For more details see the attached document: Vote 24 Agriculture: Estimates of expenditure 2001/2

Discussion
Mr Holomisa (ANC) (referring to the pie chart that showed that a large portion of funds has been given to the Agricultural Research Council) asked why the department intended to give more money to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC)

Mr Marais replied by saying that the ARC has its associates services and programmes. The department gives the whole budget to the ARC and the ARC see how this budget is distributed to its programmes and associates services.

Mr Mapalala (ANC) commented by saying that one would hope that the money that is allocated to the ARC is not only spend on its internal affairs but would also benefit people at the grassroots level, especially with research regarding small-scale farmers. He commented that certain farmers from his constituency were asked to pay for the services of the ARC. Mr Mapalala asked why these farmers were asked to pay for ARC services while this institution receive a lot of money from the Department.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mr Dirk Du Toit replied that the money allocated to the ARC is spent on micro economic policy and it is still not enough because of its work load. He said that the issue of research to small-scale farmers must still be revisited through policy.

Mr van Niekerk (FA) commented that the information from the Agriculture Research Council (ARC) is available on computers and in the national department but a political decision that would clarify how this information reaches the people on the ground is needed. He also said that in the Western Cape you can find information about climate and the economic value of land in certain areas on the agricultural Geographic Information System.

The Deputy Minister advised the Committee to invite Agricultural Research Council to present on its services and activities.

Mr Farrow (DP) asked if ARC develops their own human resources or if they hire consultants.

Mr Marais replied that they are developing their own human resources as well as hiring consultants for some services.

Mr van Niekerk again asked if there are any organisations that buy services from the ARC.

Mr Marais replied that they have a contract with the University of Cape Town.

Mr Holomisa (ANC) asked why there are no land redistribution programmes featured in the budget expenditure estimation.

Mr Marais replied that land redistribution programmes fall under the Agricultural Economic Development branch of the expenditure estimates under Farmers Resettlement Programme.

Mr Holomisa asked for clarity about the farmers resettlement programme.

Mr Marais replied that this resettlement programme refers to three pineapple projects headed by the Department in three provinces, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Northern Province. These projects were taken over from the previous government.

Mr Radebe (ANC) asked if this farmer resettlement programme is the only programme that the department has for redistribution, given the fact that the farming sector in the country does not reflect the demographics of the people of South Africa.

Mr Marais confirmed that this is the only programme within the Department of Agriculture.

In answer to Mr Radebe's question as to how the farmers resettlement programme related to a land redistribution programme, the Deputy Minister replied that there is relationship between land redistribution and the farmers resettlement programme.

Mr Mapalala made a follow-up question about the land that has been distributed to empower previously disadvantaged people in the farmer resettlement programme.

The Deputy Minister replied that all commercial farmers do benefit from the services of the department but they cannot clearly identify those who benefited from the farmers resettlement programme because it historical. He agreed that the beneficiaries should be indicated in all department programmes and they will do this as they grow in capacity.

Mr Bhengu (ANC) commented that the outline of expenditure under the Agricultural Economic Development branch does not reveal the developmental aims of this programme as it does not clarify as to what amount is aimed at developing the previously disadvantaged people.

The Deputy Minister replied that all their programmes are developmentally orientated. He admitted that this is not clear in this branch because they had not broken the amount down to show all items that are covered. He gave an example shown in the Agricultural Resources Management branch to prove that their programmes are developmentally orientated. There the largest amount was going to be spent on solving soil erosion and overgrazing problems caused by overcrowding in the former homelands.

Mr Baloyi (IFP) suggested that the department should rewrite the budget outline of the Agricultural Economic Development branch to show real development.

The Deputy Minister suggested that to solve this problem the Department should always quantify its budget allocations even for estimations, this makes it easy to evaluate whether the budget is progressive or not.

In answer to Dr Schoeman (ANC) asking if it is true that the Department has closed all its international offices, Mr Marais replied that this is true but they have recently opened three other offices.

Mr Gerber (ANC) asked if the Department is going to fund an agricultural TV programme as it did with radio.

The Deputy Minister replied that they could fund a TV programme, but they have to conduct research first to see who is likely to benefit from such a programme.

The meeting was adjourned.

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