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Source: South Africa News Agency

An amount of R14.4 billion has been allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) for the 2020/2021 financial year.

The R14.4 billion is a reduction of just under R2.4 billion from an initial allocation of R16.8 billion allocated by Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni during the Budget Vote in February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza tabled the department’s re-adjusted Budget Vote during a virtual mini-plenary sitting held on Tuesday.

The budget cuts, she said did not affect critical Medium Term allocations for biosecurity and supporting exports amounting to R495.1 million, and R500 million to finalise land claims.

The cuts were also not extended to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

The department’s R14.4 billion allocation includes transfers to Provincial Departments of Agriculture, as part of the division of revenue.

The allocations relate to Ilima/Letsema Conditional Grants – R428 million; Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) Infrastructure Grant – R965 million; CASP Upgrade of Colleges – R25 million; and CASP Extension Services – R214 million.

“The other transfers are to our agricultural entities such as the ARC, which received a grant of R1.271 billion. The National Agriculture Marketing Council received an amount R47.4 million and the Ingonyama Trust received an amount of R22 million,” Didiza said.

Didiza noted that the cuts in the budget meant that the department had to deal with very difficult trade-offs in its effort to “as far as humanly possible”, have minimal negative impact on the delivery of services within the agricultural sector.

Food security

She said the greatest portion of the R1.89 billion cut within the department is in programmes that deliver on food security, land redistribution and restitution.

These programmes are core to achieving outcomes in food security and achieving economic transformation priority, through redress and equitable access to producer support.

“Food Security had cuts of R939 million, Land Redistribution and Tenure Reform R544 million, and Land Restitution R403 million. The Food Security Program in our budget comprise of the transfer allocations from the national department as covered by the Division of Revenue Act.”

“The Ilima/Letsema and CASP budget readjustments will mean that for the 2020/2021, provinces will receive lesser allocations for producer support for production and infrastructure,” the Minister said.

Land development support scaled down

On Land Redistribution and Tenure Reform, Didiza reported that land development support was scaled down, and this support will be extended to the identified 146 projects within the Pro-Active Land Acquisition Strategy.  

Other applications relating to land support will only be considered in the 2021/2022 financial year. New projects relating to land acquisitions will also not be considered, and no new valuations will be conducted on land for acquiring.

Didiza noted the Rural Development budget cut of R199.7 million will negatively affect Rural Social Infrastructure, which includes the revitalisation of irrigation schemes.

“This coupled with the cuts in the CASP infrastructure allocations will lead to delayed implementation of on-farm infrastructure projects.”

Infrastructure projects and challenges

She said that focus for this financial year will be on the completion of multi-year infrastructure projects, and those that started in the 2019/2020 financial year.

“The Economic Development, Trade and Marketing programme had a R135.9 million cut which will lead to reconsideration and prioritisation of projects within the agro-processing, marketing and rural industrial development space. The R300 million cut relating to the Compensation of Employees will delay the drive towards fully capacitating the department towards building a resilient sector,” Didiza said.

Despite these cuts, the Minister said the department will strive to fill critical vacancies in the core delivery areas in this financial year.

Due to the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions, Didiza said the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights is also facing challenges in terms of meeting claimants, conducting research and verification, accessing claimants’ relevant documents, signing of settlement agreements, and concluding on offers.

“These challenges are mitigated, but are having an impact on the access to departmental services and the agility of the department to deliver,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

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