Dr Allen Grootboom, MPL
DA Northern Cape
The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape is satisfied with the budget vote presentation of the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture. This follows a presentation by the department to the relevant legislature committee on Thursday, 25 April 2013.
Although well presented, the department, however, failed to mitigate the potential catastrophic effects of the looming job losses in the agricultural sector through its various programmes. The department has also lost a significant allocation on conditional grants due to high levels of underspending on grants in the previous financial year.
It is disturbing that, while countless jobs in the agriculture sector are under threat, the department continues to have minimal impact by way of facilitating economic growth through creating conditions that are favourable to farmers.
Farmers affected by floods, droughts and veld fires continue to wait for extended periods for adequate support from the department. A lack of support has also resulted in far too many agricultural projects remaining dependent on government funding for their survival, and are sure to buckle the minute state funding is retracted. In fact, after a number of years, the ongoing Kalahari Kid project is still being fully sustained via the state, this year receiving R2,5 million from the department’s Technology Research and Development programme. These funds merely cover the running costs of the project.
On top of this, the vast majority of EPWP jobs being created in the agricultural sector translate into temporary job opportunities and not permanent employment, except for maybe a handful of jobs in the Warrenton Super Chicken project.
The department has also fared poorly in terms of spending its conditional grants. In the past financial year, the department spent only 43% of its conditional grants. As a result, conditional grants funds for the 2013/2014 financial year have decreased by as much as 10%. Unspent funds could have been directed towards restoring fences, fixing gravel roads and other initiatives that could lend support to farmers, in turn helping them boost their outputs. Instead, however, the province is now faced with a more limited budget to meets its objectives.
The DA believes that the agricultural sector in the Northern Cape retains its potential to absorb high volumes of labour in the province. However, an urgent review of how the provincial department conducts its business is required in order to ensure that farmers receive adequate support, farm land provides optimal outputs and conditions in the Northern Cape become more favourable towards agri-businesses.