South Africa: Didiza Outlines Plan to Support Agriculture

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Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, says the commitments made by President Cyril Ramaphosa for the department will proceed as planned during this financial year.

Didiza made the remarks when tabling her department’s R14.4 billion Budget Vote for 2020/21 during a virtual mini-plenary sitting on Tuesday. The budget, which was re-adjusted to R14.4 billion during the Supplementary Budget Vote on 24 June 2020, was reduced by just under R2.4 billion.

During the mini-plenary sitting, Didiza gave a snapshot of the current progress in terms of the department’s commitments, including the process to release around 700 000 hectares of State land for agricultural production, which has begun with the allocation of 135 000 hectares to date.

Didiza announced that the Beneficiary Selection Policy, which was published in the Government Gazette for a 60-day comment period in the first quarter of this year, will be processed to Cabinet for approval in the last quarter of 2020.

The Minister further announced that government, together with its entities, has been reviewing the legislations which would make the commercialisation of hemp possible.

“In terms of the department, the draft regulations on the listing of hemp, in terms of the Plant Improvement Act and the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, will be published for comment in the month of August 2020.

“In piloting the District Development Model, the department had already accommodated an intake of 1 001 youth to this programme from eThekwini, OR Tambo and Waterberg,” Didiza said.

Five bills to be submitted for consideration

As part of strengthening the department’s regulatory framework, the Minister announced that the following bills will be submitted for consideration by Parliament this year:

Plant Health (Phytosanitary) Bill;

Agricultural Produce Agencies Amendment Bill;

Agricultural Product Standards Amendment Bill;

Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Framework (PDALF) Bill; and

The Upgrade of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill.

Employment Stimulus

Apart from the budget cuts, Didiza said that within the economic recovery stimulus package of R500 billion announced by the President in April 2020, an allocation of R100 billion was set aside as Employment Stimulus, aimed at job creation and retention of current jobs.

“Agriculture, as the sector with a relatively higher job creation multiplier effect than most sectors, had set aside R688 million, which we have factored into our Annual Performance Plan. This allocation will be utilised to support 50 000 subsistence producers with an allocation of R12 000, through a voucher system in the peri-urban and rural areas,” Didiza said.

The Minister underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shut down of economies across the globe has necessitated a revision of estimated economic growth projections and human development indices.

“South Africa is no different in terms of the experience, but we can utilise the threat provided by COVID-19 to reimagine land and agrarian reform in South Africa. We are known to be a resilient nation and we will emerge stronger and better post COVID-19,” Didiza said.

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