By Beverley Schäfer, MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture:
Alarming reports have emerged, from AGRI Western Cape and the Chamber of Mines, that the National Department of Water Affairs is preventing farmers from obtaining integrated water-use licenses despite the fact that we are facing a potential food crisis in light of the current drought. We cannot allow red tape to make matters worse for farmers and consumers in the long run.
As the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, I will write to Minister of Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture in the Western Cape, Alan Winde. I will request that he involves the Western Cape’s Red Tape Reduction Unit to assist farmers to obtain the necessary water licences needed.
A reported backlog of more than 1500 license applications submitted to the national department has yet to be finalised by the end of 2015. These applications come at a great cost to farmers, who are already struggling under financial strain. We now see a record number of farms for sale in water-stressed provinces, with 3485 farms for sale in the Western Cape alone. The drought comes at a cost to our economy and our trade balance. The reduction in maize production alone may cost us an estimated R2.4 billion. We have to do our utmost to ease the situation. National government should be helping farmers, instead of making their lives more difficult.
The Western Cape Government (WCG) has established the highly effective Red Tape Reduction unit with the Department of Economic Development, which offers assistance in dealing with cumbersome process. This unit can be of excellent assistance to farmers in obtaining integrated water-use licenses. I will also ask Minister Winde to look into ways in which the WCG can help reduce the immense cost linked to license applications, so as to assist small-scale farmers in applying for licenses.
The drought is already causing an economic crisis, which is hurting farmers and consumers, especially the poor. Now is the time for government to step up to the plate and assist farmers, rather than standing in their way.