Gordhan's agriculture help claim misleading - economist

2016-10-27 17:31

Cape Town - The government continues to mislead taxpayers over money that was appropriated in the main budget in February this year for agriculture and the R553.3m with which it was supplemented in the mini budget by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, according to independent agricultural economist Fanie Brink.

"As in the main budget earlier this year, the additional money that was now appropriated will be used exclusively to assist small black emerging farmers. This means that this year no funds for the restoration of the production capacity of agriculture after the severe drought were appropriated for food production in the future."

The commercial agriculture, which produces 90% of the country's basic staple food, is once again overlooked in Brink's view and taxpayers will have to pay more for expensive food over the next few years if the country cannot produce enough food anymore, he cautioned.

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"Only with a few exceptions, the development of small black farmers to become fully fledged commercial farmers is a major failure due to the lack of proper training and support from the two agricultural departments," said Brink.
"All the money that was made available is used to assist small scale and subsistence farmers in the disaster drought provinces with grants, with their water needs by means of water tanks and new boreholes, to move their cattle to communal and state land for better pastures, feed for their animals and to ward off fires."
The use of the money budgeted for the development of "agri-parks" is also highly suspect to Brink.

"The sub-contractors who are used for the preparation and planting of the fields only have seed in many cases to plant without fertilisers or pesticides. Sub-contractors are despite many promises without their money and the beneficiaries without a harvest," said Brink.

"It is therefore no surprise that the small emerging farmers last week during the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (Afasa) Congress outside Pretoria demanded that they also get proper support to become commercial farmers. They also added that there is anyway almost nothing to see of the more than R2bn that has already been spent on the development of new emerging farmers."

Gordhan's claim in the mini budget speech that government did help the agricultural industry with the consequences of the severe drought is therefore misleading, Brink said, because in reality no assistance for the recovery of the commercial production capacity of the country was provided.

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