Minister of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GCIS
Minister of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GCIS

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana is going to introduce changes to how key government grants are used in order to advance transformation for the benefit of small and black-owned businesses.

SA’s big fishing companies, Sea Harvest and Brimstone, and Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund have all committed to the establishment of a R100m fisheries development fund.

Delivering his budget vote speech in Parliament on Wednesday, Zokwana said in order to reform the sector, the re-engineering of conditional grants, specifically the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and Ilima Letsema, was imperative.

"I am sounding a clarion call that it can no longer be business as usual. We need to change the manner in which we manage the funds we have, in order to achieve inclusive economic growth that is developmental in approach and encompasses the ambitions of the youth of this country and our women in particular," said Zokwana.

Picture: 123RF/ SUAT DEMIRIZ
Picture: 123RF/ SUAT DEMIRIZ

The government is concerned that the fishing sector, which has annual sales of more than R5bn, remains untransformed and dominated by a few companies.

"The objective of this development fund … is to ensure that we empower small businesses entering fishing in order to revitalise the oceans economy."

The minister said as the government intensified land redistribution, this presented an opportunity for his department to bring more producers into agriculture. "We need to be at the forefront of ensuring that we impart relevant vocational skills and formalise indigenous knowledge systems…."

President Cyril Ramaphosa has indicated that agriculture presents one of the greatest opportunities to grow the economy and create jobs.

Although its allocated budget was only R6.8bn, "it is worth noting the sector has managed to achieve growth, pulling SA out of a technical recession".

"The strengthening in economic activity in 2017 was partly driven by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors recovering from one of the worst droughts in recent history. The sectors’ contribution to the GDP was 2.4% in 2017.

"The sectors have expanded for four consecutive quarters."