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Many projects with potential to contribute to the economy do not succeed because funding takes too long to be released, Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) have heard. This was the experience of a representative of an aquaculture farm in Graaff Reinet, as he addressed Members of the NCOP delegation who are visiting the Eastern Cape as part of the week-long Provincial Week programme.

“This is the challenge we are facing here in Graaff Reinet. Sometimes we find ourselves having to look outside for money. There are timeframes in everything we do. [Late] release of funds is an obstacle when it comes to this business. We would like Parliament to look into this,” he said. 

He told the NCOP delegation that when they contact the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for an update on when funds will be available, they are always told that the money is coming. 

The NCOP delegation leader, Ms Zukiswa Ncitha, committed to follow up on the issue of funding with the department.

Another representative of the aquaculture farm, Ms Liesel de la Harpe, said the impact of the project to nearby communities is crucial. “There are a number of indirect jobs that are created through this project over and above the 96 we employ here.” She also said that the business was looking to recruit a further 120 matriculants.

“Important to us is for people to get accredited qualifications; 84 of these employees have got the qualification. We need to get our team in place and ready early next year.” She said the Services SETA has promised funding and that it seems the money is available and all that is required is an agreement with a training company.

EC Legislature Member Mr Vumile Lwana asked about infrastructure development costs and wanted to know more about production processes and the chemicals used in the aquaculture process. He also sought clarity on sources of funding, stakeholders, and the target markets.

He heard in reply that a single aquaculture tunnel cost almost R3 million and that funding of R69 million had been sourced from the Industrial Development Corporation. Ms de la Harpe told the NCOP delegates that the fish they farm, catfish, is a hardy breed and does not require many chemicals for successful farming. Furthermore, the farm has set up a compliance unit, to ensure international compliance with norms and standards. She also said the water quality is tested every day.

Another farm representative said they believe the business has a lot of potential, particularly as markets are looking for hake substitutes.

Ms Ncitha said the business must prioritise community development. “It is encouraging that the money circulates around the local community. It would be interesting to see the training business plan, so that when we talk to the ministers we are able to provide evidence so that they can help you,” she said.

She promised to raise challenges with ministers and also encouraged the business to involve the local universities.

Sibongile Maputi
12 October 2017