All nine premiers have vowed to place agriculture at the forefront of their economic recovery plans beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. In their respective State of the Province addresses, the premiers said they believe that agriculture is best positioned to not only create employment, but to combat food insecurity in the new financial year.
Sihle Zikalala, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, commended the agricultural sector for not shedding jobs despite the widespread economic difficulties brought about by the pandemic. He described agriculture as the “backbone of the provincial economy.”
He further revealed that several agricultural programmes and projects will be supported. In his recent State of the Province address, the premier also announced that 280 graduates have already been placed on farms to gain work experience.
“The department of agricultural and rural development will place (a further) 340 unemployed youth graduates during the 2021/2022 financial year on farms as part of our job creation drive. A further 250 unemployed graduates will be placed at our research stations for the production of agronomic seeds and seedlings,” said Zikalala.
“In the 2021/22 financial year, over 3 400 producers will be supported in the red meat commodity value chain. Fourty-nine livestock value chain projects constituting 23 beef projects, 11 poultry projects and 15 pig production projects are planned for implementation at a total budget cost of R110 million.”
Also, KwaZulu-Natal will support over 10 800 producers in the grain commodity value chain. Furthermore, the agriculture department will support farmers to cultivate 23 000 hectares of grain commodities.
In his State of the Province address, Chupu Mathabatha, premier of Limpopo, announced the repositioning of the agricultural sector to lead economic recovery.
“We will be planting over 122 hectares of cotton in the Mogalatjane irrigation scheme. This will provide about 50 people with employment opportunities. We have since allocated an amount of R57.5 million to fund (the) farmer support relief programme.
“We believe that this package will help support our farmers and mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on agricultural production. This will also contribute towards food security in the province. Our projections are that this funding will bring relief to over 1 000 farmers in the province.”
Furthermore, 2 500 farmers in Limpopo will benefit from a R1.2 -billion relief programme initiated by national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Mathabatha said this is in the form of production inputs to enable them to continue with production, covering areas such as livestock feed and medication, seeds, seedlings, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction.
North West premier Professor Tebogo Job Mokgoro said his government is revitalising 12 000 hectares of fallow land that surrounds the Springbokpan grain silos infrastructure in Ditsobotla.
“This initiative would enable the participation of all 15 villages within a 50km radius, from the infrastructure Springbokpan silos infrastructure. This project would have a positive spinoff of 240 jobs,” Mokgoro said in his State of the Province address.
Mokgoro stated that as an intervention to assist farmers, they are drilling an additional 20 boreholes in communal farming areas to stand guard against the negative impact of drought.
“This would ensure stock watering provision in terms of our state of drought disaster. As part of the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP), we are implementing a value chain focused production of beef, pork, aqua-culture, poultry, vegetables, chevon, grain oilseeds, and lucerne across the province, benefiting 1 430 farmers while creating 600 jobs.”
Eastern Cape premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane announced that his provincial government has set aside R332 million for the next financial year for the development of agricultural value chains for major commodities.
Mabuyane further disclosed in his State of the Province address that a cannabis plant remains in their radar for economic growth and job creation. The departments of rural development and agrarian reform and health are developing legislation to commercialise cannabis production.
“The bill on the use of cannabis for private purposes is currently being considered by the National Assembly. Government is also working on the commercialisation of hemp.
“We are pleased to announce that hemp has been de-scheduled from the restrictive schedules of the medicines and related substances act of 1965 and this paves the way for hemp to be declared as an agricultural crop. Our medium-term strategic goal is to establish five cannabis production corridors focusing on creating a value chain for medicine, fibre, fuel and food.”
David Makhura, the Gauteng premier, indicated that over the years, many have underestimated the full potential of this province’s agricultural and agro-processing sector. This year, however, they are going to vigorously promote urban agriculture as a key sector for employment, entrepreneurship and food security.
“In keeping with our commitment to support black farmers and agro-processors over the next five years, I can report that we have facilitated the commercialisation of nine black farmers and five black agro-processors,” said Makhura.
“Sixty-eight black smallholder farmers were linked to markets through facilitated engagements with fresh produce markets and retailers. With the partnership and collaboration of the fresh produce markets and the township retailers, we are confident that we will be able to facilitate 350 black smallholder farmers with market access by 2022.”
Meanwhile the Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, reiterated that leveraging the agricultural economy for growth and recovery is a key priority of his province in the year ahead.
“To do so, we will continue to be the leaders of agricultural technology on the African continent. Drone technology, in particular, is assisting the Western Cape to increase both animal and crop production, as well as expertly monitoring crop and soil health across the province,” said Winde.
“That is why I am personally very excited by the department of agriculture’s plan to embrace drone technology to the benefit of the agricultural community through a training programme.
“There are in fact already 13 drone pilots who have completed their training and a second group will also ‘get their wings’ by the end of March this year. I have no doubt they are all going to be key drivers of our economic growth in the years to come.”
Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane indicated in her State of the Province address that agricultural development is an integral component and catalyst of broader economic and infrastructural transformation. This notion was widely accepted and supported by evidence observed by the World Bank.
The global demand for Mpumalanga’s agricultural products was consistently increasing, said Mtshweni-Tsipane.
“We therefore need to increase our production in order to grow our net export market share. There must be a strong and strategic collaboration between us as policy makers, farmers of all sizes and shapes and civil society organisations to collectively create sustainable solutions for this critical sector,” she said.
Mtshweni-Tsipane said her government was conducting a feasibility study for the establishment of an agri-hub in the Nkomazi Municipality. “A budget of R15 million for the first phase and the conversion of the other (hub) to the packhouse, has been set aside for this purpose.”
In her State of the Province address, Free State State premier Sisi Ntombela specified that to take advantage of their agricultural potential, their focus will be on agro-processing.
“This will see us rolling-out an inland fishery. Last year in December, we launched an inland fishery in Orangeville, which has created seven job opportunities. More jobs will be created from this project.”
She added that under the Agri-Parks programme, they are also building a warehouse and service infrastructure in Springfontein. They also agreed to develop the Free State strategy for the development of cannabis industry during this financial year.
In his State of the Province address, Northern Cape premier Dr Zamani Saul said a provincial economic reconstruction and recovery plan has been established to rebuild the province’s economy.
He indicated that from the provincial stimulus the agriculture business rescue plan has been prioritised, among others.
“The national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development allocated the Northern Cape with drought-relief funding of R35 689 000.
“As government, we assisted famers in all districts by availing vouchers for fodder to a total of 3 907 farmers, transportation of fodder for farmers who had no means to fetch from suppliers as well as assist farmers in the Frances Baard district who suffered as a result of veld fires between September and October last year,” he said.
“These farmers received 110 tonnes of fodder from the fodder bank, to mention some of the interventions. It should, however, be noted that the adverse cyclical weather patterns we are experiencing are but mere signals of the depleting opportunities we have to reverse the trend of rapid climate change. The effects of the drought are going to be long term despite the recent torrential rains.”