R381m allocated to drought relief

Cape Town – Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says the department has allocated R381 million towards drought relief following the reprioritisation of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema funds.

With the effects of climate change having had a devastating effect on the sector, the Minister said the department would lead the implementation of the agricultural mitigation and adaptation measures to ensure that the sector copes with climate change effects.

He said this when tabling the department’s Budget Vote at the National Assembly on Thursday.

“Our focus is on the provision of animal feed, drilling and equipping of boreholes for smallholder and subsistence farmers,” he said.

The Minister said working with the provincial departments of agriculture, the national department has drilled 224 boreholes, 78 of which have been successfully completed. He said a total of about 320 000 bags of animal feed were bought and distributed to the affected farmers.

“The Land Bank has also made available an amount of R400 million for concessional loans to commercial farmers affected by the drought,” he said.

Minister Zokwana said through the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), government has also introduced a drought tolerant maize seed.

He said during the 2014/15 financial year, the ARC distributed 10 000 seed packs were distributed to smallholder farmers in various provinces.

“Results indicated that farmers who received and planted the maize cultivar experienced on average 50% increased yields when compared to conventional varieties available on the market.  We now need to ensure that seed is available for farmers,” he said.

He said during the 2015/16 finanical year, provinces achieved 43% (52 013 ha) of the targeted 120 000 ha under Fetsa Tlala production season due to drought.

The Minister said the impact of drought has adversely affected the basic food basket. “The impact of global economic volatility, which saw the Rand decline by almost 40% added further strain on the purchasing power of people particularly the indigent households. These high food prices negatively impact poor households”.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries exports grow

Meanwhile, the Minister said the exports for agriculture, forestry and fisheries have grown and that South Africa remains in a positive trade balance as far as exports are concerned.

“The value of agriculture, forestry and fisheries exports increased from R135 billion in 2014 to R144 billion in 2015. 

“In the same period, our exports into other African countries increased from R59 billion to R62 billion and into Asia from R34, 5 billion to R37.1 billion. The conclusion of the EU Economic Partnership Agreement has provided increased quota access for a number of existing and new products such as wine and sugar,” he said.

The Minister said that the department will continue to focus on increasing intra-African trade and other global trade opportunities.

“The largest sub-sector in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries’ export basket in 2015, based on value, was fruit and nuts. 

“The highest growth in the export of specific product within the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector was paper and paper products with an increase of 94%,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za