Show me the money!

The current allocation for agriculture accounts for just 0,4% of the national budget. But the real reason why so little money is being sent farmers’ way might just surprise some, writes New on the Land editor Peter Mashala.

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A few weeks ago I wrote about people who seem to get a kick out of failure. These are people who deliberately withhold state resources so that aspiring farmers flounder. Recently I attended the annual congress of the National Emergent Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo), where the issue of budget allocation for agriculture was discussed. And how, in the past two years, the allocation from the National Treasury’s national budget has decreased. Nerpo says it’s far below recognised parameters such as those set at the Maputo Declaration of 2004, in which all the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries committed to ensuring the agriculture and food security budget would increase to 10% of the national budget between 2004 and 2010.

But in South Africa there has been a 6% decrease compared to amounts available in the previous years. This is despite the expanded role of the agriculture department, which now incorporates forestry and fisheries (DAFF).The current allocation for agriculture accounts for just 0,4% of the national budget.
The allocation for rural development and land reform has also failed to impress the emerging sector as it shows only a marginal increase from R6,4 billion to R6,7 billion over the past two years.
This issue was debated at the Nerpo congress, and many farmers shared their stories of how the low budgets affect their businesses.

We all know how an insufficient budget for the sector will impact its growth – but is it our National Treasury that’s being unjust to the sector? Doesn’t government realise flourishing farms will guarantee the country’s food security?
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says we’ve got DAFF to thank for the declining budget – the very people who always complain there’s too little money. This department, together with all its branches, is failing to spend the money already allocated to it. Mantashe told Nerpo that as long as DAFF keeps returning unspent budget to the National Treasury, that budget won’t be increased.

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Which makes perfect sense. If they can’t spend all the money they get this year, why should they get more next year? 
And let’s be clear about this. Money isn’t vanishing – through corruption, say – it’s being sent back to the National Treasury.

Why can’t the department spend its budget? Could it be we’re dealing with bean-counters who think “saving money” will make them look good and further their own careers? Or is it a clear indication that DAFF is infested with those just too lazy to get out there and do their jobs? Whatever the case, this is a problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible, or else South Africa faces dire consequences.     |fw