Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,
Other Deputy Ministers present,
Members of the Executive Councils responsible for Agriculture,
Honourable Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee,
Members of Parliament
Ladies and gentlemen
Good afternoon, sanibonani, molweni, ndi masiari, i nhlekanhi, dumelang, goeie dag!
The ANC defines its vision for South Africa as that of a National Democratic Society, a society in which the values of human freedom, socio-economic rights and progress prevails.
The departure point of the ANC has always been to acknowledge that the Colonialism of a Special Type (CST) left a legacy of 3 interrelated contradictions; class, race and gender. These contradictions also manifest themselves in the economic superstructure that defines the South African Agricultural economy today.
Defining a policy response and interventions in revitalising the Agricultural sector must therefore seek to interrogate the following questions:
ONE: Does the existing Agro-Food complex advance the basic objectives of creating jobs?
TWO: In which ways does the current structure of the Agricultural Sector undermine or advance the goals of the New Growth Path?
Honourable Chairperson, the State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report indicates that over 226 million Africans are undernourished and that approximately 24.6 percent of the undernourished citizens in the world are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In fact, rural households are generally more vulnerable and South Africa is no different. About 40 percent of South Africa’s underprivileged population reside in rural areas and are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on land for their livelihood. However, vulnerability to food insecurity is not exclusive to rural communities.
It has, in fact, become very pronounced in urban areas due to high levels of rural-urban migration in search of employment and livelihoods.
One of the reasons why most households are regarded as food insecure in South Africa is due to the fact that people are net consumers of purchased food, rather than producers thereof. Access to food therefore becomes a function of household cash income and thus cash deficit households continue to experience inadequate access to food.
We need to inculcate a culture of planting household food gardens. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has gone on a national campaign to distribute fruit and vegetable seeds to communities.
Bringing the statistics home to South Africa, about 13.8 million South Africans go to bed hungry every day. A report from Oxfam, entitled, Hidden Hunger in South Africa: the faces of hunger and malnutrition in a food secure nation, puts a face on the number of South Africans who are facing hunger. It is still very difficult to imagine that so many people are facing this indignity every day. We have to do something.
Chairperson, I find myself asking whether we need more money? Or, do we need to find more effective ways of spending the money we have? Or do we need a completely new approach to prevent hunger? The question that should keep us awake at night is – what can we do to unlock poverty traps and push back the frontiers of hunger? How do we balance Agricultural Production for Export and Agricultural Production for National Food Security?
Part of answer lies in the recognition that economic growth is the main vehicle for reducing poverty, food insecurity and job creation. But for this to work, income distribution becomes equally important. In many circumstances, growth in the agricultural sector has been an important ingredient in the formula that connects economic growth to the poor.
To connect the poor, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries allocates funds to provinces through the comprehensive agricultural support programme – CASP. These funds are aimed at assisting smallholder producers with implements and support so they also become commercial. Chairperson, We realise that our relationship with provinces needs to extend to more than just disbursing funds. We need to urgently get involved, through mutual, friendly relations, and ensure that we hold provinces more accountable for funds we allocate to them. Being a small scale farmer does not categorise you as a type of farmer, it’s merely a stage in the development of farming. What I have witnessed here in the Western Cape is that a farmer can be in a development stage for their entire life. We are going to be making some changes to CASP allocations in order to reflect our goals.
Last week I held a meeting with the SETA responsible for agriculture. We will be moving closer to ensure that the department’s training and research unit designs learning tools that will be adapted to us adequately training young people who have the skills to uplift our sector.
Up-skilling our youth is just one of numerous ways in which we can create employment while investing in the agriculture sector. Extension officers have been a very sore point for many smallholder farmers who require assistance with livestock and crops. Sufficient training for extension officers will equip them with the necessary skills to adequately provide advice.
The livestock sector plays a crucial role in the economy of resource-poor communities. About forty percent (40%) of livestock in South Africa is owned by black small-holder farmers, and we owe it to them to continue to we will continue to expand our animal improvement schemes to transform this sector.
On the trade front, opening new markets for producers is on top of our international relations agenda. During August 2014, the Ministry approved the placement of an agricultural attache in Brazil to strengthen bi-lateral relations and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Similar offices had already been established in the Russian federation and the People’s Republic of China, in line with government’s commitments in the context of BRICS.
Chairperson, these are just some examples of how we are tackling the issue of job creation as a means to eradicate food insecurity. The issue we are dealing is with multifaceted and needs a dynamic solution.
I wish to draw your attention to the young people who have joined us today to witness this debate. These 30 graduates from Stellenbosch and Paarl were part of an 18-month learnership called the Agricultural Business and Management Development Program. This Program was done in conjunction with the Boland College and the Vineyard Academy which was specialising on skills development in plant production and winemaking. Young people are key to unlocking the potential of our sector.
Chairperson, the National Development Plan (NDP) sets out various methods and targets to eradicate poverty, reduce unemployment and eliminate inequality by 2030. It identifies Food and Nutrition Security as a key element of both poverty and inequality: it is both a consequence of poverty and inequality as well as a cause. As a result, the NDP makes reference to a number of steps that will improve food security, including the expanded use of irrigation, security of land tenure, especially for women, and the promotion of nutrition education.
The decision to approve the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security by Cabinet in September last year (2013) demonstrates the will of the current government to lead people of South Africa out of the shackles of hunger and poverty. Given that this is a complex issue characterised by inter-disciplinary approaches, the policy seeks to provide an overarching guiding framework to maximise synergy between the different strategies and programmes of government and civil society.
The continuing evolution of food security as an operational concept in public policy has reflected the wide recognition of the complexities of the technical and policy issues involved.
The objective of my speech is to locate the discussion of Agrarian Transformation and Food Security within a wider context of an Agricultural Food Economy emphasising its impact on socio-economic development. Improving the economic and nutritional status of rural communities is thus an ethical and political imperative, embedded in an equitable Agricultural Economy addressing rural poverty.
Over the last 20 years, the dominant policy approaches to alleviating food security or addressing agrarian transformation have been mainly based on increasing production in order to increase the availability of food in the market.
One of the hallmarks of a modern or industrialised economy is the rise of the modern food network. These networks are generally characterised by long distances between producers and consumers; the industrialisation of agricultural production;
increased processing, and supermarkets as the most important way in which consumers access food.
This modern food industry tends to gain ground as economies develop and populations urbanise. The global food industry is now the biggest in the world.
South Africa’s food industry has followed this industrialisation trend, and what could be considered a “modern” food network is now the overwhelming dominant structure. This has been accompanied by a rise in the role of supermarkets in both urban and rural areas as the “gatekeepers” of consumer access to food; increased concentration in the processing sector as larger companies benefit from economies of scale; and an increase in the size of commercial farming units, also in response to the economic logic of economies of scale. The level of supermarket concentration in South Africa is currently similar to that of the United Kingdom, and concentration levels in key processing areas are high or very high.
Although between 1994 and 2014 the real contribution of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to the GDP increased by 30-35%, over the same period employment declined in both primary production and agro-processing by about 30% to 40%. This combination of slow-to-modest growth and declining employment continues a longer-term trend evident since at least the 1970s. The latest figure is that Agricultural growth increased by 5%, whilst losing 73,000 jobs.
Our reality is that, despite some progress since the birth of democracy in the country in 1994, one in four people currently suffers of hunger on a regular basis and more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry.
While there have been a variety of sector strategies established in the past, and while some progress has been made, there is recognition of a need to sharpen our analysis of what accounts for sluggish growth and job loss in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and of what is required to reverse the trend in food insecurity.
At the same time, it is recognised that despite the strategic role of the Agricultural sector in respect of food security, it is also the case that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is under-funded.
Agriculture however remains a primary catalyst and the key productive sector which will usher in the radical socio-economic transformation that our country and our people need.
For me, the key indicators of this Vision are:
Food Security for all;
Significantly increasing the contribution of Agriculture to Economic Growth or our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Demonstrating the sector’s ability to produce 1 million decent jobs by 2030; and,
To this end, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will publish the Integrated Growth and Development Policy, along with the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) that seeks to focus its interventions on strategically identified commodities included in the National Development Plan (NDP).
The APAP drives a more inclusive market agenda. Objectives include among others:
1. To create a fair, accountable and sustainable food industry that ends bad practices such as price fixing and food waste, and does more to enable small-scale producers and informal traders to prosper.
2. In partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, improve rights to land and the means of production, such as water, seeds, fishing equipment, finance and skills training, for small-scale producers.
3. Create climate change adaptation plans with the full participation of people who are vulnerable to hunger and climate change with input from better-skilled extension officers.
4. Addressing our dependency on imported processed foods, by integrating market, trade and production opportunities; and stimulating production and processing of key commodities, including wheat of which we import 50% of local consumption.
5. The export of animal products still suffers due to challenges in bio-security, and will be addressed through
a. the National Abattoir Rating Scheme.
b. the Compulsory Public Service for newly qualified Veterinarians; and
c. the delivery of Mobile Veterinary Clinics to remote rural communities.
Chairperson, as the state we need to invest in APAP. Key national departments and sector organisations have participated in the development of the APAP programme. It aims to benefit the Commercial and emerging sector alike who are still excluded from mainstream agriculture.
Agriculture is the most labour intensive sector. Therefore APAP is very specific about the job creation in the commodity value chains which it prioritises. It is in all of our interests that APAP succeeds.
I look forward to receiving your responses and proposals on how best to take the sector forward.
I wish you well with your deliberations and I thank you.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS