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R217m for drought relief in NC

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The drought had negatively affected the livestock industry that was the backbone of agricultural production in the Northern Cape.

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DROUGHT relief funds to the value of R217 million have been allocated by the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture and Land Reform.

During his budget speech, the MEC for Agriculture and Land Reform, Norman Shushu, said that since the fodder bank was established 413 tons of lucerne had been distributed to drought-stricken areas in the Province.

“We had about 100 tons of lucerne in stock at the end of March. We have started with the planting of lucerne under pivot irrigation at both the Vaalharts and Rietrivier research stations.”

He added that R127 million that had been allocated for drought relief by the National Disaster Management Centre in 2017 had enabled the department to assist
2 380 farmers who were in distress, mainly in the Namakwa District, some parts of Pixley ka Seme and parts of the ZF Mgcawu District.

“We are in the process of implementing this relief and we will continue until the end of June.”

Shushu stated that the drought had negatively affected the livestock industry that was the backbone of agricultural production in the Northern Cape.

“The drought has persisted over large areas of the Province, particularly the western parts. During 2014 to 2016 there was an increase in livestock slaughter statistics as producers reduced animal numbers in large parts of the Province. Slaughter statistics for 2016/17 indicate a reduction of about
180 000 sheep, or 10 percent, and 21 000 cattle, or nine percent, of animals slaughtered within the Province.”

He indicated that R92 million had been allocated for flood disaster management to repair flood protection walls along the Orange River and other infrastructure that was damaged during the floods a few years ago.

Shushu said that the 80 jobs would be created through the Rooibos Tea Factory in Nieuwoudtville, where an SMME will package luxury boxes for niche markets once full production is realised.

“A research project on the value-adding of rooibos waste material through the improvement of aroma and taste of rooibos stem material through agro-processing has been completed. The study has shown that the annual fermented rooibos production can be extended by utilising previously considered waste material of stems and dust. This discovery has a significant market value, especially in times where shortages are experienced.”

He added that the development of the 3 200 hectares of the Namakwa irrigation development along the lower Orange River was expected to take place over the next 10 years at a cost of R1.6 billion.

“The project will target commodities such as raisins, table grapes and dates.”

Shushu stated that the Môreson Abattoir in De Aar had regained its European Union registration during 2017 after the department placed a state veterinarian at the plant.

“This was of immediate benefit to the ostrich industry as a whole as avian influenza outbreaks in large parts of South Africa, and the Western Cape in particular, prevented other ostrich abattoirs from being able to export. Most birds were thus channelled to Môreson Abattoir in De Aar.”

He added that the EU had suspended trade in all meat products with South Africa early this year due to South Africa’s inability to provide the required guarantees on residues and residue sampling.

“Hopefully this will be addressed with urgency ,as a failure to do so will most probably result in negative economic consequences for the community.”

Shushu said that Beefmaster Kimberley was approved as one of two facilities in the country to export frozen meat products to China last year.

“Quite a few consignments have been sent to China since and the goal is to increase this trade as much as possible. Negotiations are ongoing on a national level to try and ease the requirements set by China as this will ensure easier access to that market by a larger part of our farming community.”

He stated that the provincial veterinary laboratory had received unconditional accreditation for five diagnostic method surveillance testing by the South African National Accreditation Society (SANAS).

“The provincial laboratory continues to outperform established laboratories in the Proficiency Testing Schemes run for its accredited methods. Since obtaining the SANAS accreditation, the laboratory has received requests from the Free State Province to test
120 000 Brucella samples but has committed to test only a maximum of 1 500 samples from outside the Province due to human and budgetary constraints.”

Shushu added that they had approached the Northern Cape High Court to conduct an investigation into collapsed property trusts and schemes to determine if the appointed trustees were properly administering the trust on behalf of beneficiaries.

He explained that beneficiaries’ shares had been sold without their knowledge.

“Decisions were taken without consultation and the majority of beneficiaries are illiterate.

“The Master of the High Court has advised the Department to appoint an investigator. We are considering instituting a forensic audit to uncover possible corruption and fraud in these schemes.”

Shushu stated that they wished to also verify the current ownership and shareholding details.

Total budget: R471 million

Administration: R120 million

Sustainable resource management: R33 million

Flood relief: R124.9 million

Farmer support and development: R60 million

Veterinary services: R52.2 million

Research and technology development services: R54.3 million

Agricultural economics: R12 million

Rural development: R15 million