Emerging farmers welcome agriculture budget; warn leadership tussle disturb delivery

Minister of agriculture Tina Joemat-Pettersson is warned that leadership tussle in her department will disturb delivery

The African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) has welcomed the agriculture, forestry and fisheries department budget speech presented last week but expressed concern that the reported leadership squabble in the department could disturb delivery.

Presented by the minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the budget speech promised a lot in the way of promoting of supporting emerging farmers. It however came amid reports that Joemat-Petterson and her director general Langa Zitha have clashed.

AFASA said in a statement it was concerned that the reported leadership challenges facing the department could have adverse effects on the successful implementation of the innovative plans and programmes announced by the Minister.

However AFASA president Mike Mlengana said “The Association is pleased to note that the department is committing to decisively address the plight of rural and agricultural infrastructure, food security, access to markets, and creating an enabling environment for growth and development of the small-holder farmers”.

The Minister announced plans to build and refurbish fresh produce marketing depots for small-holder farmers, production infrastructure for crop and livestock, various irrigation schemes in the former homelands, fencing and agricultural colleges.

“To support these initiatives, the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) is allocated R1.5 billion, of which over R52,5 million will be used for infrastructure at the agricultural colleges, R322 million for the extension recovery plan, R762 million for on-farm infrastructure, and R398 million for flood damaged infrastructure in disaster areas” said the minister.

The Department’s total budget of R5.8 billion also set aside R50 million for the promotion of local agro-processing businesses, to improve access to markets for small-holder farmers, R200 million to support international trade, marketing, agro-processing and cooperative development.

AFASA has appealed that the oversight role of the newly established Delivery Forum be taken seriously as it carries an important responsibility of ensuring that “things get done”. It also welcomed the news that the AgriBEE Charter has finally been gazetted for public comment.

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