Pretoria - AsgiSA Eastern Cape has allocated R7 million for the construction of silos in the province as part of a cropping programme aimed at alleviating poverty in rural areas.
The milling plants, which will be linked to the silos, will produce maize meal and crushed maize as part of the AsgiSA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative) EC's integrated dry-land cropping programme.
Thukela Mashologu, AsgiSA EC Agriculture and Agro-processing Project Manager, explained that the building of the silos was the start of an ambitious plan to bring much needed investments to the former Transkei.
"Silos and milling plants are important to the economy as these will ultimately lead to diversification for communities who are looking to the programme to help alleviate poverty and improve food security.
"The jobs to be created and the small business development are also significant benefits of the integrated cropping programme," said Mashologu.
AsgiSA EC is a provincial government initiative and is fast-tracking agriculture and agro-processing (which includes livestock) as well as forestry.
Meanwhile, the entity which expects its silo sites to be ready for its second maize harvest in 2010, completed its first harvest with almost 18 000 tons of maize being harvested in Butterworth, Matatiele, Mt Frere and Qumbu.
This year, AsgiSA EC expects to double its harvest as the number of hectares has doubled from 6 700 ha to 12 000.
"Our first maize yield was harvested onto delivery trucks causing delays in the harvesting process.
"This method incurred additional costs and affected our monitoring of the exact tonnage of the harvest," said Mashologu.
Maize is the staple food for the province's rural communities and accounts for nearly 95 percent of the crops planted in AsgiSA EC's dry-land cropping programme.
Mashologu said that AsgiSA EC had embarked on a request for proposals for grain milling and silo management, after which a community public-private partnership arrangement was likely to be formed for managing the grain silos and milling plants.
"The current market conditions, particularly with maize production, create an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of our produce.
"Storage facilities will also help us sell our produce in intervals and therefore ensure we get a fair price. The processing of our produce will boost the province's market share in this area and create jobs for participating communities," adds Mashologu.
Although initial plans were under review, AsgiSA EC plans to plant 100 000ha of different dry-land crops (mostly maize) in the rural Transkei over the next five years, expanding this to 500 000ha by 2032.