Only half the funds allocated for drought relief paid – Annete Steyn

DA says relief must be rolled out in a centralised fashion at a national level

Only half the funds allocated for drought relief paid to drought-stricken provinces 

28 October 2016

The National Disaster Management Centre, which falls within the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, has spent just 44% of the funds allocated for disaster relief.

The explanation provided by CoGTA in their 2015/16 annual report as to why just under R260 million of the almost R600 million made available was spent is that no request made by the provincial departments for the disaster relief grants had been received.

This is unacceptable as eight out of our nine provinces have been declared disaster areas in the last year, due to the drought and should have available funds allocated to them.

This is yet another reason why the drought must be declared a national disaster – to ensure that farmers in need of relief do not have to depend on red-tape and fragmented provincial and local governments to submit requests on their behalf. 

Relief must instead be rolled out in a centralised fashion at a national level.

The DA welcomes the extra half a billion that Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan has set aside for drought relief. But it is worrying that the departments at the receiving end of these funds are not able to spend what they receive, and there is very little accounting for what they do spend it on.  The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries needs to account for how this money is being spent as it is clear that the funds are not reaching its intended beneficiaries. 

From this week’s medium term budget, it is also clear that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has made very little headway in achieving its set targets for the 2016/17 financial year. 

The department had planned to assist 145 000 subsistence and smallholder producers in the 2016/17 financial year, however, has reached none of them since they set out 6 months ago.

The Department has also only managed to create a shocking 1 213 of the planned 20 000 jobs through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme alongside the Ilima/Letsema Fund.

According to the Secretary-General of AFASA, Mr Aggrey Mahanjana, 3 million smallholder farmers were affected by the drought. It is also clear that small scale farmers would not be able to plant without assistance in the coming season as many dams and rivers are still dry. 

Farmers are currently still struggling to buy animal feed and livestock farmers are experiencing a high mortality rate. If farmers are not assisted, many of them would have to leave the rural areas to look for employment elsewhere.

Even if the country receives normal or above average rainfall this season, which is unlikely, the crisis will continue unabated as farmers who weren’t able to pay back loans from the last planting season will not be able to obtain credit for the coming planting season and will not be able to plant. 

We may also experience shortages in seed and animal feed for a while, and food price inflation is likely to continue to rise.

According to Agri SA, the turnover of the agricultural sector is approximately R227 billion per annum with a net tax contribution of approximately R50 billion in primary agriculture alone. 

The drought experienced since 2015 has been one of the worst on record, resulting in an 8.4% decline in agricultural production in 2015. 

The DA will continue to closely monitor the government to ensure that drought relief reaches those who need it the most.

Issued by Annette Steyn, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, 28 October 2016