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The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was impressed by the Eastern Cape’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s report on its state of readiness for 2018/19 planting season.

The committee this week received briefings from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and provincial departments of agriculture on their states of readiness for the 2018/19 planting season. The provincial departments that appeared before the committee were Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape. Grain SA and the Agricultural Research Council also briefed the committee on the same issue.

The briefing meeting was the continuation of the one that took place at Parliament last week on 28 August where the committee received a briefing from the North West and Northern Cape provinces on their state of readiness for the 2018/19 planting season.

Speaking to Insession after the meeting, the Chairperson of the committee, Ms Machwene Semenya, said: “I was impressed by the Eastern Cape presentation. The presentation was able to give us a full report in terms of their readiness. They know how many beneficiaries that are going to benefit out of their planting season, they know where they must find them and whether they are women or men or the disabled.”

Furthermore, Ms Semenya said the Eastern Cape went an extra mile in creating partnerships which will increase the hectares which previously were around 10 000 to 13 000 hectares, and now they have about 55 000 hectares, something which, according to Ms Semenya, is a good progress.

She said the direction that the Eastern Cape’s MEC for Agriculture is taking with regard to agriculture is very impressive, as he is able to say “in this area this is the commodity that can be planted, we have this challenge in this area, we have a drought so we have to look at other different commodities” and he is making the entire province to participate in agriculture. That is what is impressing.

The Eastern Cape province also reported to the committee that there are 77 government tractors that are available. A total of 23 tractors were awarded to traditional leaders and cooperatives to support cropping. The committee heard that the Eastern Cape is ready for the 2018/2019 cropping season.

The committee received presentations from all the nine provinces and out of that nine, seven are provinces are ready. “Readiness means that they have procured the seeds, they have procured the pesticides and procured the mechanisation and all the inputs are available for farmers to start farming, and that means we are just waiting for the rain,” said Ms Semenya.

According to Ms Semenya, the presentations of the two provinces KwaZulu-Natal and Free State, show that they might not be ready at the time when the season starts because they will still be 65% or 30% ready. “But we can say that we are ready generally because we have called even Grain SA, which is one of the commodities whose crops are part of the stable foods in the country, that is why we have interest in them and they are ready too. So I think we are ready for the planting season.”

Ms Semenya said the briefing the committee received from ARC shows that in other parts of the country, there is going to be enough rain. In other parts there might be El Nino and other parts like in the Eastern and Western Cape, there will be drought. “We are happy as a committee because we know and the Department of Agriculture has to work with the provinces and deal with the challenges and farmers are properly advised in that regard.” 

By Zizipho Klaas

6 September 2018