Daff Budget Cuts to Have a Devastating Effect On Animal Health [press release]

It was announced at yesterday evening’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is scheduled to have the largest percentage cut to its budget by the Treasury. DAFF’s budget is projected to lose the following:

R158 million in 201516,

R210 million in 201617, and

R200 million in 201718,

Cabinet also approved budget reductions of R76.8 million in 201516, R116.6 million in 201617 and R1.5 million in 201718 that will affect the ARC’s allocation. These values represent a real annual average decline of 4,2% over the Medium Term Economic Framework.

I will today write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Machwene Semenya, requesting her to summon the Minister of DAFF, Senzeni Zokwana, and officials from National Treasury to brief the Committee on the massive cut to DAFF’s budget.

The greatest impact of this cut will be on animal health programmes. This has real potential to hamper food security and subject the South African public to potential ill-health.

For the third year in a row there has been no availability of Bluetongue A and B vaccines. These vaccines are important for protecting individual aninals and the prevention of exotic disease.

At a yesterday’s meeting with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), we were informed that the ARC has to bear the brunt of DAFF budget cuts. They will now receive 20% less in financing in 201516. This in effect will force the ARC to stop research and development on much needed vaccine development.

We heard yesterday that no new vaccines have been developed in South Africa for the last 20 years.

The ARC has, however, reached 60-70% completion towards developing these much-needed vaccines. This research achievement will now have to be stopped due to the budget cuts.

The ARC’s main revenue stream is transfers from DAFF. Transfers from the Department will decrease from R1 billion in 201415 to R915 million over the medium term due to projects funded through the economic competitiveness support package coming to an end.

The competitiveness support package has been used to employ 300 graduate students in different aspects of research and development. These cuts will have a further negative effect on the work of the ARC as it reported that 207 members of its current work force would be retiring in the next few years and that the graduate students had been earmarked to fill the vacancies.

The DA will continue to ensure that the ANC government considers the woes of the farming community and allocates sufficient resources to ensure that its concerns are taken seriously and are being addressed accordingly.

Annette Steyn

Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Source : Democratic Alliance