Despite the Free State department of agriculture and rural development upping its budget from last year’s R783 million to R830 million this year, organised agriculture is not impressed.
Delivering his budget vote, MEC Thembeni Nxangisa said that 4 000 stock theft cases are reported annually and more than 131 000 livestock go missing each year. “The livestock theft causes serious financial losses to the farmers and increases the risk [associated with] farming with livestock.”
Around R4.5 million has been allocated to intensify the fight against stock theft, using drones, remote detection devices, and “extensive technological aids”.
“This programme is aimed at curbing livestock theft [and entails] strategies such as tracking devices, security surveillance, and security infrastructure,” said Nxangisa.
But farmers say they are still at the mercy of criminals, and now also the possible outbreak of animal diseases amid vaccine shortages. Many have thus lamented the agri MEC’s recent budget as a failure to assist farmers effectively on these worrying issues.
Budget ‘falls hopelessly short’
Jack Armour, Free State Agriculture’s commercial manager, says they are not happy. “FSA believes that the [budget] falls hopelessly short of making any impact on communal herds around the 88 towns in the Free State.”
The organisation was hoping for a budget provision to establish quarantine barriers along the SA-Lesotho border. It now urges law enforcement agencies to keep impounded animals, which could have grazed across the border or may have been stolen, in isolation under instruction of the state veterinarian.
“The dangers of spreading animal diseases require active intervention.”
In 2019 FSA, together with the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO), called on the government to establish compartments and controlled checkpoints to prevent the outbreak of animal diseases in the Free State.
“It appears that despite this request, there are still significant dangers that infected animals [will be] transported from affected areas and pose a risk to areas that are trying to maintain their health status,” Armour says.
The latest case of foot-and-mouth disease identified in Potchefstroom has been a great concern to farmers.
Armour is also disappointed that the minister never mentioned programmes to help new farmers obtain animal identification cards and brand their livestock as tools to fight stock theft.
“The budget also makes no mention of measures to try to address the theft of maize in particular, which Free State Agriculture recently reported on to the police. Emerging farmers, like commercial farmers, are essentially also targeted by this.”
Encouraged about veterinary services
An encouraging budget line is the allocation of R9 million for veterinarians and the expansion of the laboratory in Kroonstad.
Yet FSA is concerned about how veterinarians and animal health technicians will assist farmers on communal lands to vaccinate their livestock, to mark and dehorn animals, and to castrate unsuitable bulls.
Meanwhile, the department received R190.4 million under the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), with which it plans to implement several projects.
The department said it would prioritise these projects as follows:
- Training and mentorship for farmers (R15 million).
- Unemployed graduate placement (R10.4 million).
- Extension recovery plan (R24.6 million).
- Marketing and infrastructure development (R8.5 million).
- Project planning and implementation (R22.5 million).
- Glen College of Agriculture (R10.5 million).
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.