Emerging livestock farmers ask for more support

The agriculture department is making slow progress in developing a support strategy for emerging livestock farmers.

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The National Emerging Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (Nerpo) appeared before parliament’s portfolio committee for agriculture, forestry and fisheries in May this year to call for support from government in the implementation of development programmes for smallholder livestock farmers. At the time Nerpo CEO, Dr Langelihle Simela, said the organisation wanted to “facilitate the empowerment of its membership and enable them to utilise market opportunities.”

Nerpo, which represents about 2 000 emerging red meat producers, asked for legislation that would promote and support emerging red meat producers, cattle breeders and feeders. They also asked government to facilitate the commercialisation of the emerging sector by aiding farmers to access technical support, credit facilities and markets.  Some of the key challenges emerging livestock farmers faced included poor management of communal land and high production costs.

Simela suggested one possible intervention that could allow smallholder farmers to remain sustainable and in business included subsidies on fuel, electricity and other production inputs. But, at a recent feedback session to discuss progress made by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in developing a plan to support emerging livestock farmers, parliament’s portfolio committee for agriculture found that little had been done.

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The acting director-general of DAFF, Mortimer Mannya, told the committee that many of the emerging livestock farmers represented by Nerpo farmed in communal areas and that tenure systems in these areas were very complex, making it difficult to address the challenges these farmers faced in term of access to land. He said that the challenges emerging livestock farmers faced needed to be jointly dealt with in partnership with other departments including the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform, Energy and Water Affairs as well as entities such as Eskom.

Committee members made it clear to DAFF that they were tired of hearing about the progress being made with devising new plans and that it was time for action. Annette Steyn, DA MP, said the department could start supporting emerging livestock farmers by simply providing the support services that they were mandated to supply. “The department is failing to provide even basic services like veld management, veterinary services and other extension services in these communal areas.

“Many of the animal health officers in these areas have no capacity. They have no vehicles, no equipment, they cannot do their jobs. “The department must first build the capacity to provide these basic services before it can start looking at further support plans,” she said. The committee chairperson and ANC MP, Mlungisi Johnson, said the challenges emerging livestock farmers faced were fairly straightforward and that the committee was now interested in seeing a plan with a proposed implementation date.

“We cannot talk about polices and plans forever, we want to see the impact of these plans, are they bearing fruit, creating jobs and enhancing food security?” Johnson said DAFF had to present a support strategy for emerging livestock farmers by the beginning August. Nerpo did not attend the follow up meeting in Parliament, but Simela told Farmer’s Weekly that they had met with DAFF since the meeting in May. However, there was no timeframe in place for when a support strategy would be finalised and implemented.