The KwaZulu-Natal department of agriculture and rural development raised some eyebrows this week when it said it needed R1,1 billion to assist farmers in the aftermath of violent looting in the province.
According to a report yesterday on Netwerk24, the department supplied this figure to a parliamentary committee visiting the province.
“Very strange,” said Kwanalu board member Dr Kathy Hurley.
She told Food For Mzansi that she is unsure how the provincial department reached that figure as they are still collecting information from the commodity groups in the province to assess the damage. “I can tell you we are nowhere near that! We are still in the millions.”
Hurley further described he amount as “mindboggling” and an indication that the department is “trying to work backwards”.
She told Food For Mzansi that the numbers from the farming communities in KwaZulu-Natal are also still being collected.
“The survey numbers are too low at this stage to be used with confidence. We will wait for more input. The commodities also keep changing their figures as they receive more details.”
Questioned by Didiza’s spokesperson
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the national minister of agriculture and rural development, Thoko Didiza, concurred with Hurley. He agreed that there was no substantial information to put a number to the damage to agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal yet.
“There’s no quantification so far. Remember, the quantifications come from the industry itself.
“Since this thing started, we’ve been hearing these estimates even in the industry itself. For instance, at some point the guys from sugar cane industry said, immediately after the address, that they are estimating R100 million. Then we said to them, ‘Okay, we want to know what the issue is’. They said the issue is that that the sugar is not getting to the mills.
“They had said this on a Friday and on Monday the mills opened, which killed the estimations.”
Ngcobo said he is also unsure about why farmers are seemingly slow to supply information, and whether it is because they have insurance, but emphasised that they have not given definite indications of damage.
“All that we’ve seen is the estimates on the news and we don’t know where they come from.” He called the figure of R1.1 billion as reportedly proposed by the provincial department “foreign” to the national department.
The spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal department of agriculture and rural development, Vusi Zuma, said the department will respond to Food For Mzansi as soon as he receives estimates of the damage in the province in order to clarify how they had reached the figure of R1.1 billion.