A reply to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that despite the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DALRRD) allocating R293 million to prepare and plant 83 849ha for the current planting season to assist smallholders farmers, only 12 128.3ha and 3 180.8ha has had their land preparation done and planted respectively across the country. However, the total amount of R218 million allocated towards this planting season has already been spent. This constitutes a total of 74% of the allocated budget.
According to the DALRRD, the breakdown allocation per commodity amounted to 84 000 hectares and was targeted for the planting of various commodities including grains, fruit and vegetables. However, only 14% of that land has been prepared for planting, with only 4% having been planted so far. This is an 86% failure rate. In provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape and the Northwest, the targeted land has neither been prepared nor planted at all.
The DA is calling on Minister Thoko Didiza to urgently provide a national update on the steps that her Department is taking to address this impending crisis because the department’s budget is almost exhausted and departmental plans are far from being achieved. South Africa cannot afford to miss its agricultural output targets, especially now when food inflation is at an all-time high.
With grains such as maize, dry beans, groundnuts, wheat, sunflower and sorghum forming part of the country’s staple food crops, it is profoundly worrying that Provinces with higher unemployment rates and food insecurity have either not begun preparing the land to plant them or haven’t started planting them despite the rainy season having started already. The Western Cape is the only Province that has managed to prepare and plant all its planned hectarage for the forthcoming season.
South Africa can only begin to drive down the cost of food if we increase the output of our staple agricultural commodities. For this to happen, Minister Didiza and her Department have to cancel their holiday plans and get working on addressing the stalled state of preparedness for the 2022/2023 agricultural season.