Chair, the UDM supports Budget Vote 26. Agriculture continues to play an important role in South Africa. It provides employment and business opportunities to many people. In addition, it represents a significant proportion of South African exports, and thus makes a valuable contribution towards generating foreign revenue.
Therefore, the department needs all the support it can get from us. However, there are a number of areas that we find worrisome. The department gives inadequate support to rural communities and emerging farmers. As a result, agricultural activity in rural communities merely revolves around subsistence farming.
Adding insult to injury was the failure of the department to provide tractors and farming equipment to poor rural farmers, as it had promised. According to this project, R450 million was set aside for the mechanisation of poor rural farms, which the department failed to implement properly. This crisis deepened when the department seemed to lack a clear policy on how to allocate the tractors in question to various provinces. To date, the department is yet to provide a credible explanation for this fiasco.
Hon Minister, in your visit to the Mqanduli area in the Eastern Cape you promised the AmaGebe rural tribal authority 17 tractors and 17 implements. To date, those tractors have not been delivered. Furthermore, regarding the policy on the tractors, when you visited Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal, the chairperson of the standing committee in KwaZulu-Natal said that one of the tractors was lost and they did not know how the tractors were allocated to people. That is why you need a proper policy.
There are also uncertainties about whether the department is going to finance the ram exchange programme, which is assisting rural wool-grower farmers so that they can produce proper wool.
We also find it difficult to build a world-class agricultural sector capable of competing with the best in the world without first taking steps to root out inefficiencies in the department.
Hon Minister, it is very clear that there are inefficiencies in your department. We have sent many questions to you. In fact, Minister, you yourself fail to answer questions and you fail to meet with the stakeholders. You need to sort this out, Minister, because it affects you, or else you will end up being a Minister of promises. Thank you. [Applause.]
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHERIES: Chairperson, hon Minister, we all know that the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors are of the utmost importance and are the backbone of socioeconomic development in South Africa. However, these sectors are facing immense challenges. Their future will be shaped by the following critical factors, and I will mention just a few: climate change with the further implications of floods, droughts, changes in water supply, soil erosion and so forth; the growth in the population; skills shortages; the changes in consumer needs and preferences; and the shifts in the global economy and the markets.
The key priorities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are thus aligned to ensure food safety and security amidst the ever- changing environmental factors and increasing population.
Om hierdie prioriteite aan te spreek, het die Minister vandag aangedui dat daar, onder meer, R954 miljoen vir plant en dierproduksie, en 'n verdere R935 miljoen vir landbounavorsing begroot is. Ons durf nie toelaat dat Suid- Afrika, vanwe 'n gebrek aan fondse, met navorsing en tegnologie agter raak en verdere kundigheid verloor nie. Kom ek gee vir u een voorbeeld.
Tydens my besoek verlede week aan die Kongo het ek gesprekke gevoer met die President van die Kongo, asook met die Kongo se Minister van Landbou. Die gesprekke het onder meer gegaan oor die Suid-Afrikaanse boere in die Kongo. Albei Kongolese leiers het met groot lof gepraat oor wat die Suid- Afrikaanse boere in die Kongo regkry. Binne enkele maande het die boere 1 200 hektaar ontbos en met mielies beplant. Hulle het die waterpompe en pype herstel, met die gevolg dat die plaaslike bevolking nou ook kraanwater het. Waar die plaaslike bakker voorheen maar enkele brode 'n week verkoop het, bak hy nou 200 brode per dag as gevolg van die nuwe werksgeleenthede en salarisse vir die plaaslike gemeenskap. Die projek is ook deur die president as 'n presidensile projek verklaar.
Dit is met gemengde gevoelens dat 'n mens luister na die waardering wat die Kongolese politici vir die Suid-Afrikaanse boere se kundigheid en hardwerkendheid het. Dit is belangrik dat die Suid-Afrikaanse bevolking ook die waarde van hierdie boere moet begin besef. Eers dan sal almal saamwerk om die verlies aan sulke landboukundigheid te stop. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[In order to address these priorities, the Minister today indicated that, inter alia, R954 million had been budgeted for agricultural plant and animal production, and a further R935 million for research. We dare not allow South Africa, because of a lack of funds, to lag behind regarding research and technology and continue to lose expertise. Let me give you one example.
Last week during my visit to the Congo I had discussions with the President of the Congo as well as the Congolese Minister of Agriculture. The discussions related, amongst other things, to our South African farmers in the Congo. Both Congolese leaders had high praise for what the South African farmers are achieving in the Congo.
Within a few months the farmers had deforested 1 200 hectares and planted them with mealies. They repaired the water pumps and pipes, with the result that the local population now also has tap water. Whereas in the past the local baker sold only a few loaves of bread per week, he now bakes 200 loaves of bread per day, because of the new job opportunities and salaries for the local community. The project was also declared by the president as a presidential project.
It is with mixed feelings that one listens to the appreciation that the Congolese politicians have for the skills and industry of the South African farmers. It is important that the South African population should also start to realise the value of these farmers. Only then will everyone work together to stop the loss of such agricultural expertise.]
In the 2012-13 financial year, the department will be taking various steps to respond to the mounting aforementioned challenges in order to minimise their impact on the South African economy and its people.
As a follow-up to the commitments made at COP 17, the department will promote climate-smart agriculture. This will entail promoting the adoption of sustainable production systems, namely organic farming, agroecology and conservation agriculture.
An organic farming policy is to be presented to Cabinet and the portfolio committee before December 2012. With regard to conservation agriculture, pilot projects have been implemented in several provinces. This was accomplished in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
In order to respond comprehensively to the management of regulated plant pests and diseases, the department, in close collaboration with the South African fruit industries, has developed an early-warning surveillance programme in relation to quarantine fruit flies. Moreover, the technical forums, which include the industry, continue to identify, prioritise and manage quarantine pest risks such as the risk posed by the African invader fruit fly.
Having maintained the country's lucrative fruit export markets thus far, production and exports are still under threat. Accordingly, imports of host fruit from countries where this pest has already been established must be appropriately managed, emphasising the importance of our border control and risk-management responsibilities. To further strengthen contingency planning with regard to pests and diseases, an emergency plant pest response plan is being developed for implementation.
The global trade of food and food products, veterinary public health and food safety aspects in relation to animal products have received increasing attention. In particular, our organised industry role-players, consumers and producers have expressed serious concerns relating to the standard, quality and independence of meat inspection at our abattoirs - and I had a discussion about that with the veterinary board.
To respond to the challenges, the department is consulting widely with all stakeholders and role-players. A policy on Independent Meat Inspection will be concluded during the present financial year. The department will, in collaboration with provinces, also embark on strengthening the monitoring of domestic and foreign meat processing plants. All these efforts will hopefully restore domestic and international consumer confidence in meat and meat products.
The skewed distribution of veterinary professionals, especially in rural provinces, remains a key challenge for South African agriculture. Whilst the rural provinces require access to a range of veterinary services to support livestock production and livestock trade, the unavailability of accessible and affordable animal health care services remains a key constraint.
Chairperson, R100 million has been set aside for primary animal health care. The priority will be the major rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, as well as the building of new clinics, animal health centres and other animal handling facilities. Mobile veterinary vehicles will also be considered for remote areas. These efforts will support the creation of an enabling environment for the planned compulsory community service for newly qualified veterinarians. Quite a lot of progress has been made with the amendment of the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act. The Cabinet approved the amending Bill on September 2011 and the Bill is now in the process of consideration by this House. The Bill aims to address the need for qualified vets in many of our rural areas.
With regard to the legislative mandate, the Fertilizers and Feeds Bill is in the process of being certified by the state law adviser. Thereafter, it will be tabled in Parliament.
Further consultation with regard to the Plant Breeders' Rights Amendment Bill is currently under way. This Bill aims to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights relevant to new varieties of plants. Such protection contributes to economic growth as it has a positive impact on the competitiveness of South Africa's agricultural sector.
A proposed Plant Health Policy and Bill have already been prepared for public comment.
A great deal of progress has been made with the proposed National Animal Pounds Bill. This Bill will establish national norms and standards relating to pounds and the impounding of animals.
The Liquor Products Amendment Bill has been drafted after lengthy consultation with stakeholders and is currently being scrutinised by the state law adviser. We trust that this Bill will be tabled in the near future. Subsequent to a tender process, the University of Pretoria has been appointed as the service provider to assist the department with the review of all these pieces of legislation.
The livestock industry is an important element within the agricultural sector, both in terms of food security and sustainable livelihoods. Animal production contributes approximately 41% to the agricultural GDP of South Africa. This includes at least 500 000 people who are employed by the livestock industry.
Interestingly enough, 40% of South Africa's livestock is owned by communal and small-scale farmers in our rural villages. They are unable to utilise these assets for sustainable income generation; hence they are unable to ensure household food security. To resolve this dilemma we will need to introduce new technologies and scientific farming methods to them.
The Agricultural Research Council, ARC, in partnership with all the provincial departments of agriculture, will be rolling out the implementation of the Livestock Development Programme. In this initiative, the ARC will introduce and expand on the dissemination of technologies, such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer. The National Agricultural Marketing Council is also actively engaged in a programme to introduce farmers to the structure, operation and requirements of the formal red meat market. This is the National Red Meat Development Programme and works with emerging and communal farmers to increase the income earned from raising cattle through greater and more beneficial participation in formal red meat markets.
Onderstepoort Biological Products, OBP, is embarking on a new era of strategic alignment with government priorities. The quality of Onderstepoort Biological Products vaccines is a critical issue. The quality control system has been accredited and this must ensure that no substandard batch of vaccines leaves the plant. This can, however, not be the only way to ensure that the end user receives an effective vaccine. A system is now in place which ensures that the cold chain is maintained up to the point of sale.
Profits are being invested in new product development and replacing critical equipment to maintain manufacturing capacity over the short term.
The Perishable Products Export Control Board, PPECB, has maintained very tight financial controls over its business in 2012. This is commendable given the difficult economic climate experienced. The PPECB collaborated closely with the department in upskilling smallholder farmers across the country. They reached 1 500 smallholder farmers through 24 technology transfer days. Assisting smallholder farmers to become export-ready and to export their product successfully is an important future priority.
I am happy to announce that for the period of January to December, compared to the same period last year, the value of exports to Singapore has increased by 78% for products such as grapes, apples, pears and avocados; to Hong Kong it increased by more than 5%; and to Malaysia an increase of 20% was achieved. This is a clear indication that the National Agricultural Marketing Council model is working.
Voorsitter, ek wil graag alle rolspelers bedank - dit sluit die departement asook georganiseerde landbou in - vir hul volgehoue goedgesindheid en bereidwilligheid om saam te werk, want alleen gaan ons nie die probleme oplos nie.
Nieteenstaande sommige mediaberigte, stem ek en die Minister oor baie landbou sake saam. Natuurlik verskil ons ook oor sekere sake. Dit is normaal. Ek glo dat ons albei besef dat dit in belang van landbou is dat al hierdie sake verantwoordelik hanteer moet word. Daarvoor bedank ek haar en die departement. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Chairperson, I really want to thank all role-players - that includes the department as well as organised agriculture - for their continued goodwill and willingness to work together, because on our own we are not going to solve these problems.
Notwithstanding some media reports, the Minister and I do agree on many issues regarding agriculture. Of course, we also disagree on certain matters. This is normal. I believe that both of us realise that it is in the interest of agriculture that all these matters should be handled responsibly. For that I thank her and the department.]
This is going to be a productive year, hopefully in which the department, my office and our state-owned enterprises will work with the Minister and everybody to ensure success. I thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]