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Lifeline for East Cape farmers

Eastern Cape farmers are being thrown a lifeline, with the government preparing to clinch a deal that will soon open the gates of Gauteng, giving struggling producers access to wider and lucrative markets. The Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform is to sign a memorandum of agreement which would make the Eastern Cape one of Gauteng's biggest farm produce suppliers.
Lifeline for East Cape farmers
©Miroslav Liska via 123RF_livestock_farmers

The provincial government is also establishing an Eastern Cape Beef Fund to boost 100 black beef farmers, giving them funding and the means to sell locally and globally.

These were some of the plans announced by Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane in Bhisho yesterday.

A drive to commercialise and transform the province's farming industry

"Gauteng doesn't have land and it wants to have off-take agreements with our farmers to produce certain commodities [not yet determined]," Qoboshiyane said in an interview.

"Our farmers will get money from this opportunity as they will sell their produce to Gauteng, which is focusing on being the agro-processing hub of the country."

Delivering his policy speech, Qoboshiyane said the government was on a drive to commercialise and transform the province's farming industry by continuing to hunt for profitable markets with which local producers could partner. "The idea is to move from the mass distribution of livestock and funds with no clearly defined or visible results," he said.

"Agriculture must create jobs in the province and we haven't done that with the old method, hence the strategic shift to commercialisation.

"We need current commercial farmers to join this initiative to develop black farmers to be commercial farmers too.

"There are more opportunities from such, which include logistics, insurance, packaging, processing," he said.

Support for livestock farmers

The department has set aside R30- million for the 2016-17 financial year to support livestock farmers.

Qoboshiyane said the establishment of the Beef Fund would see 700 jobs created. "These farmers will be trained and given weaner calves that will be fattened and sold to domestic and export markets," he said.

One of the farmers in line to benefit from the Beef Fund initiative, Laphum'ikwezi cooperative leader Nonzwakazi Jantjies, from Bedford, said they were excited about the department's plan to assist them. "This means we would be able to create more jobs for our communities," Jantjies said. "The department has been assisting us already with heifers and we sell locally.

"It's good that there are more plans to make us grow in this industry."

Support for the citrus industry

Qoboshiyane said R4-million would be set aside this year to support the citrus industry and R1-million for deciduous fruit.

Sundays River Valley Citrus Company director Hannes de Waal said it was encouraging to see the government prioritising agriculture, but they would have liked to see more funding allocated to citrus as it had growth potential. "I think we are still missing the point because citrus is the biggest job and wealth creator in our province," he said. "I am not saying other areas must be neglected.

"More funding is needed to speed up the transformation and to grow citrus farming."

Building a poultry network

The department also plans to link the yet-to-be-operational Grahamstown poultry abattoir with the Rocklands farmers in Uitenhage to give them market access.

"We have retailers interested in being involved in the abattoir, but we will not divulge their names for now," Qoboshiyane said. "We will also link them up with schools, link them with retailers to sell their produce."

The abattoir had the potential to slaughter 2,000 chickens a day, he said.


The department also planned to place the agri-parks under the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency as it felt municipalities did not have the capacity to run the parks. The Eastern Cape would have six agri-parks in district municipalities, including at Sundays River, where farmers would have the opportunity to produce and sell their produce to the parks.

"Our plan is to engage the national department and municipalities to agree that these agri-parks be managed and facilitated by the ECRDA following the success of the four Rural Enterprise Development hubs.

"We can use existing expertise from our department and the ECRDA to drive these parks to have immediate results," Qoboshiyane said.

The national department was allocated R6-billion over three years for the establishment of agri-parks. Each agri-park was to receive R45-million in funding for its operation.

Drought relief

Qoboshiyane said they had set aside R95-million this year for drought relief in the province. The money would be used to provide at least 6,000 tonnes of feed for livestock, to create 40km of fire belts next to farms and to refurbish 58 boreholes and windmills across the province. The department also has plans to provide 460 rainwater tanks to farmers and produce fodder on 2,050ha of land.

Commercial farmers in the making

Qoboshiyane also announced a plan to convert 150 farmers into commercial ones this year. This would include 50 wool producers, 50 beef producers and 50 crop producers." Additional reporting by Zine George

Source: Herald


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