South Africa’s agriculture sector created 65?000 new jobs between December 2009 and December 2013, reversing a trend of farming job losses in the country that stretched back to the 1970s, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Tuesday.


Speaking at a post-State of the Nation Address media briefing in Cape Town, Patel said that the government had spent about R20-billion on land restitution and redistribution between 2009 and 2013, during which period a total of 1?740?555 hectares of land had been acquired and redistributed or restituted.


To ensure sustainable production on productive land, he said, 700?000 smallholder producers had been supported through various initiatives, including access to finance and mentoring.


Fetsa Tlala (end hunger) programme


Regarding the Fetsa Tlala programme, which was launched by President Jacob Zuma in October last year, Patel said that planting was taking place on 230?000 hectares of land in six provinces, with half of this land set aside for smallholders.


“A total of 10?271 resource-poor, historically disadvantaged producers were supported to access water for agricultural purposes, and over 18?000 hectares were irrigated during this period. From 1 April 2009 until 31 December 2013, a total 2?400?000 hectares of land has been added to the area of land under rehabilitation and restoration.”


According to the minister, a total of 3?486?000 hectares was cleared as part of follow-up treatment.


“A further 33 341 smallholder producers were assisted to access markets, and 1?284 producer cooperatives and marketing depots were established in order to increase their competitiveness and take advantage of market opportunities.”


Patel said an additional 22 cooperatives had been linked to the Department of Social Development’s Food for All programmes as the government moved to procure produce for its social programmes from the smallholders it was supporting.


Primary animal healthcare


“Furthermore, we have committed to extending the primary animal healthcare programme to smallholders in all provinces,” Patel said. “In the past year, 23 mobile animal clinics were procured and delivered to remote rural areas.”


The scientific committee of the World Animal Health Organization has confirmed the restoration of South Africa’s foot and mouth disease (FMD) free status, enabling the country to negotiate with its trade partners to lift their ban on its red meat exports.


Patel said the confirmation of South Africa’s restored FMD free-status was a positive step for trade and markets access for the industry.


Work opportunities in rural areas


Regarding work opportunities in rural areas, Patel said a total of 3?384 small rural enterprises had been established in different sectors between 2010 and 2013.


“We were also able to link 170 196 poor and vulnerable South Africans, including recipients of social grants, to economic opportunities,” he said.


In rural areas, a total of 3 422 110 work opportunities had created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), including the Community Work Programme, since 2010.


Most of these jobs were created under the infrastructure sector of the EPWP. An additional 798?586 full-time equivalent jobs had been created in different sectors from 2010 to date.