Agriculture earnings low- DG

By Francis Hweshe

Cape Town – The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has indicated that the current worldwide credit crunch was affecting South Africa’s major agriculture markets in Europe.

It said that the financial and economic uncertainty and debt crisis in Europe “continue to keep global markets jittery with talk of another global recession gaining momentum”.

The department’s Director-General Langa Zita announced this while presenting their unqualified annual report to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Tuesday.

He said that last year, agricultural commodity markets experienced “significant volatility as the balance between demand and supply and weather conditions occurred.”

Gross farming income from all agricultural products for 2010/11 was estimated at R131.7 billion, which was 0.4 percent lower than the previous corresponding period.

Gross farming income from field crops decreased by 12 percent, amounting to R27.6 billion.

Income from horticultural products rose by 0.6 percent from R35.3 billion to R35.5 billion. Income from animal products amounted to R68.6 billion, showing an increase of 4.7 percent.

Zita said the forestry industry was showing “steady recovery” from the 2008 recession, which resulted in pulp and paper demand.

On the fisheries industry, about 27 000 people were directly employed in the sector and 81 000 jobs were also dependent on the industry.

The biggest challenge which the department faced was the integration of forestry, fisheries and agriculture into one big department.

Another hurdle, Zita said, was the delay by the National Intelligence Agency and SA Qualifications Agency in checking personnel suitability as it posed a challenge in terms of filling up vacant posts.

While he highlighted the successes and challenges of the department, the committee was not pleased with his presentation. Some MPs charged that it lacked depth.

They complained that the department was hiding reports from them and it was difficult for them to get responses to their queries.

The alleged that they were being “kept in the dark” and had to rely on media reports to understand what was going on.

They said the department should release the findings of an investigation into irregular activities, which some reports say include wasteful and fruitless expenditure, as cited in the Auditor-General’s report. – BuaNews