Thousands benefit from tractor service to farms

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cape Town - Thousands of people living in rural Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal have benefited from a government initiative that makes tractors and tractor drivers available free of charge to emerging farmers, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson said yesterday.

Responding to a parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly, Joemat-Pettersson said 85 new tractors had been delivered in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal each, in June last year.

In Mpumalanga, the 85 tractors, had been used in 40 projects to till 12 835 hectares of land, benefiting 1 608 people, since their delivery.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the 85 tractors the province had received, were used by nearly 200 traditional leaders to service over 9 000 hectares, she said.

The new tractors form part of the department's mechanization programme and have helped to beef up the number of available tractors - to 272 in Mpumalanga and 190 in KwaZulu-Natal, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The tractors are owned by the state and managed by service providers that then make these, as well as tractor drivers, available to emerging farmers free of charge.

In Mpumalanga, the fleet of tractors is part of the Masibuyele Emasimini programme, while in KwaZulu-Natal, the state owns and manages the tractors and employs and trains the tractor drivers.

Joemat-Pettersson said in Mpumalanga, the consignment of 85 tractors, along with 355 sets of implements, was handed over in June last year by President Jacob Zuma.

She said the addition of 85 tractors was a big boost to the province, since the initial tractors were mainly serving the subsistence farmers.

The extra tractors meant that the province could extend the tractor service to land reform beneficiaries.

The province had developed a strategy, which was approved by the Mpumalanga's provincial cabinet and detailed how the tractors would be used.

In answer to a related parliamentary question over concern that there had been irregularities in the tender process, Joemat-Pettersson said there had been no such irregularities.

She said, however, that a deviation from the tender process had been made in an effort to deliver the tractors before the planting season and to meet the timelines set for the presidential launch in June.

She stressed that the department had still awarded the tender to the lowest priced quotation.

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