Severe budget cuts for agriculture department to bankroll Covid-19 fight

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Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza.
Jan Gerber/News24
  • The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development had its R16.8 billion budget reduced by R2.4 billion.
  • Food security, land redistribution and restitution programmes have been severely reduced.
  • Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza has said Covid-19 compelled the country to rethink and re-adjust budget allocations for competing needs during this period.

Food security, land redistribution and restitution programmes have been dealt a blow as budget cuts threaten the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s core "deliverables".

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza presented her department's adjusted budget during a virtual mini plenary in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The initial February budget allocation for the department of R16.8 billion was reduced to R14.4 billion during Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's special supplementary budget in June.

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But Didiza said the greatest portion of the cuts of R1.89 billion within the department was in the programmes which deliver on food security, land redistribution and restitution.

The food security programme had cuts of R939 million, land redistribution and tenure reform R544 million and land restitution R403 million.

"These programmes are core to achieving outcomes in food security and achieving economic transformation priority through redress and equitable access to producer support. The food security programme in our budget comprise of the transfer allocations from the national department as covered by the Division of Revenue Act.

"The Ilima/Letsema and Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) budget readjustments will mean that for the 2020/2021, provinces will receive lesser allocations for producer support for production and infrastructure. Provinces will therefore need to reprioritise projects for this financial year," Didiza said.

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In respect of land redistribution and tenure reform, Didiza said the land development support was scaled down and this support would be extended to the identified 146 projects.

"The other applications relating to land support will only be considered in the 2021/2022 financial year. Relating to land acquisitions, new projects will not be considered and no new valuations will be conducted on land for acquiring. The current funding will only cater for current commitments," she said.

Cut

The department's rural development budget had a cut of R199.7 million.

This, Didiza said, 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. The 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.

READ | UIF Covid-19 payouts extended into August

"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," she said.

Part of the budget adjustments is a R300 million cut to the salaries of employees.

Didiza said this would delay their drive towards fully "capacitating" the department.

"Notwithstanding these cuts, we will strive to fill critical vacancies in the core delivery areas of our department during this financial year. Furthermore, the department has scaled down the budget within non-core areas. The provision of resources such as ICT equipment, procurement of uniforms and training will only happen as a matter of necessity," she said.

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