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Millions hungry despite agricultural growth

June 1, 2013
Fruit and veg vendor at Retreat Station

Fruit and veg vendor at Retreat Station

While the agricultural sector created 54 000 new jobs between January and March this year – a 7.9-percent increase and 12.7 percent up year-on-year – nearly one quarter of all South Africans are still going hungry.

This was revealed by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson in her budget speech to Parliament this week.

Referring to her department’s theme of “Food Security For All”, Joemat-Pettersson said a recent report that 12 million South Africans – 22.7 percent of the population – had insufficient access to food had “shocked our nation”.

“For the greater number of South Africans who are gainfully employed, it was unthinkable that such huge numbers of citizens were going to bed hungry. The uncomfortable truth is that while South Africa is a food secure country, an alarming number of people are not getting sufficient food.”

She reported that, after previous “stop-start” efforts, a food security and nutrition policy had been developed and was in line to be approved by the Cabinet.

Joemat-Pettersson noted that the National Development Plan had identified fisheries as an important vehicle for achieving its vision of an integrated and inclusive rural economy, and that the industry contributed 0.5 percent of national GDP and two percent of the Western Cape’s GDP.

The cabinet had approved the small-scale fisheries policy in May 2012 and it would be implemented this year. The current fishing rights allocation process would ensure that allocations were more economically viable in future, she said.

Also, the department intended ring-fencing a certain percentage of fishing allocations for “youth-owned” companies, but gave no further details.

Joemat-Pettersson said her department and the Rural Development and Land Reform Department had implemented an accelerated integrated agricultural production programme in seven provinces that had placed more than 35 000 additional hectares under production.

The latest jobs data from Stats SA showed that agriculture was by far the largest contributor to job creation and now employed 739 000 people, up from 656 000 last year.

She noted that Asia’s changing consumption patterns, population growth, structural reforms and improved market access had contributed to an increase in exports from South Africa. However, problems were being experienced regarding non-tariff barriers introduced by some Asian countries.

Joemat-Pettersson tabled a budget of R6.178 billion, of which just under 60 percent is for transfers and subsidies to provinces and entities. The biggest allocation – R4.554bn – goes to agriculture, with R663.9 million for administration, R525.5m for forestry and R434m for fisheries.

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