Address by the Minister of Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the Fourth-Yearly National Congress of FAWU
6 Sep 2011
Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC), Comrade Gwede Mantashe
President of Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), Comrade Atwell Nazo
FAWU National Office Bearers
Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Comrade Gugile Nkwinti
Minister of Economic Development, Comrade Ebrahim Patel
The Director-General of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Comrade Langa Zita
Ladies and gentlemen
I am grateful to my leaders in FAWU for calling me to account to the workers, and to share with you some of the work we are doing relating to, among other things, food production and security.
Let me state at the outset that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, under its current political and administrative leadership, has prioritised the progressive forces on its list of key stakeholders. This is why I convened the Vulnerable Workers Summit in 2010 to engage with existing and new stakeholders of the department. Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries workers were never stakeholders before!
Comrades, the international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Human Rights Watch (HRW), released a comprehensive report on the working conditions of farmworkers in the fruit and wine industries in the Western Cape last month.
The HRW Report was preceded by a similar report released by Western Cape-based NGO, Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry, which many of you would be familiar with. The 96-page report, released in Cape Town in August, titled South Africa: Farmworkers’ Dismal, Dangerous Lives – Workers Protected by Law, but not in the fields, is a detailed record of the seemingly gross violations of the human and labour rights of vulnerable farm workers.
Shortly after the release of the report, I invited the authors thereof to the August MinMEC, to brief us on their methodology, findings and recommendations. As the political leaders of the Sector we interrogated the report and welcomed the extensive research done by them.
We undertook that we, together with some of my Cabinet colleagues whose departments are affected by that report, will soon visit the affected farms to see for ourselves the conditions under which some farmworkers and dwellers reportedly live and work as soon as we have finished studying the report.
As government, we will formulate a collective response to the findings and the recommendations of the report because we are passionate about improving the human and labour rights of farmworkers.
Comrades will recall that my department hosted a Vulnerable Workers’ Summit last year July in Somerset West, Cape Town. We brought together organised labour and civil society to address the critical need to build good working relations and improve the living conditions of the vulnerable workers within the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sectors.
The summit was divided into four commissions which centred on four themes: the social determinants of health; working conditions; security of tenure; and empowerment and training for the vulnerable workers.
Some of the progress achieved following the Somerset West Summit include, inter alia, the building of four agri-villages for workers (two for agriculture, one for forestry and the other one for fisheries), the promotion of wellness and the reduction of HIV vulnerability amongst the vulnerable workers, conducting of workshops on substance abuse and the establishment of the Community Policing Forums on farms as well as the establishment of mobile police stations.
We have initiated a process of changing the lives of the vulnerable workers together with our sister departments.
This is work in progress. We will ensure that we incorporate the findings and the recommendations of the Human Rights Watch Report in the implementation of the resolutions we adopted at the Vulnerable Workers’ Summit in Somerset West last year.
Comrades, since we have AGRI BEE and the Forestry Charter, we have also resolved to request the President to establish a Judicial Commission of Inquiry within the Fisheries sector. We want it to assess, amongst others, the conditions of the vulnerable workers, empowerment, equity and transformation. Our approach is a broad-based one which will look beyond the vulnerability of the workers. We want the workers in the Fisheries sector to have a stake in the business of fishing – to have shareholding and ownership.
Against this backdrop, that is why I have made time today to engage with the FAWU leadership to report on the progress made on the implementation of the summit resolutions. And also to further strengthen the ties between government and civil society. I have also asked the Director-General of the department to look at a mechanism whereby the department meets with its key stakeholders on a more regular and scheduled basis.
This is important as we move forward as a country in addressing issues of food security, rural livelihoods, public services and economic freedom.
Comrades would be aware that the globally accepted definition of food security, as espoused by the Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) is (and I quote) “access by all people at all times to the food required for a healthy life. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life”.
The FAO World Food Summit plan of action has seven broad outcomes, which member states should report on bi-annually, including among others:
- To create the best conditions for poverty eradication and durable peace, for full and equal participation of women and men, for achieving sustainable food security for all;
- To improve physical and economic access by all, at all times, to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and safe food;
- To pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices to guarantee adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national, regional and global levels
At a national level, Cabinet has tasked me to convene an inter-ministerial committee on food prices and food security to strategically map out the country’s plan for addressing these challenges. We have had a number of meetings to consolidate the various departmental strategies, plans and programmes into a single implementation plan. This Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) will convene on Friday to formalise the inter-departmental position in preparation for Cabinet approval.
One of the most significant campaigns on this IMC, comrades, will undoubtedly be the Zero Hunger Campaign – the documented details of which you would have received in your packs. It is a product of our relations with our brothers and sisters in Brazil, where a similar campaign has all but eradicated hunger to a large degree.
We will launch the Zero Hunger Campaign next month on World Food Day in the Eastern Cape. The main objectives of the Campaign are to:
- Ensure access to food for the poor and vulnerable in society
- Improve food production capacity of households and poorly resourced farmers
- Improve nutrition security of the citizens
- Develop market channels through bulk government procurement of food linked to the emerging agricultural sector, and
- Fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders within the food supply chain.
We are graphically illustrating the very basics of what it means to have a developmental State. This plan is largely reliant on the vast buying muscle of the State. Government will become the main buyer of food from smallholder producers. This will go a long way in eradicating poverty, rejuvenating and stimulating the rural economy and creating jobs.
Fish production is said to be one of the most practical ways in which the demand for proteins could be addressed.
More public sector investment is required in agricultural research and development, institutions and infrastructure to increase sector productivity and resilience towards weather/climate change and resource scarcity.
Increased production of food is seen as an effective mitigating strategy.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CYMMIT) and the South African National Seed Producers Organisation, are piloting a community- based seed production scheme in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State.
This is to enhance access to seeds by all households and farmers. Seed packs are currently being distributed to identified households for food production through various campaigns such Ilima-Letsema, Public Holidays, World Food Day, and through provincial campaigns.
Transformation of, and job creation in, the fisheries sector are at the core of the department’s strategy. The Small-Scale Fisheries Policy is designed to stimulate the development of inshore fisheries with the support and intervention of government so that the fishers themselves can benefit more directly from their labour. Unlike in the past, the new policy is also putting greater emphasis on the post-harvesting phase.
The Small-scale Fisheries Policy will also influence the general fisheries rights allocation policy, which will have to be revised, along with the six sectoral policies that will affect re-allocation in those sectors in 2013. These sectors are: KwaZulu-Natal Prawn, Demersal Shark, Squid, Tuna Pole, Hake Handline and Traditional Line fish.
We dare not shy away from the fact that mistakes have been made in the previous allocation processes. Regretfully, it left a number of our traditional fishing communities destitute.
We accept that it is now our responsibility to correct those mistakes, starting with the piloting of the Small-Scale Fisheries Policy in 2012, followed by the new long term allocation of fishing rights.
The department is currently in the process of putting resources in place to address this process, so that rights can be re-allocated in these sectors by the end of 2013 and most importantly, have a new General Policy in place as well so that the major commercial sectors can be re-allocated in 2015 and 2020.
Equally important is that the department has finalised the National Aquaculture Strategic Framework and will soon be tabling it in Cabinet for approval. Some of the main pillars of the strategy are to ensure effective stakeholder engagement and management, and advance the transformation agenda. In so doing we will ensure that FAWU and other civil society organisations operating in aquaculture are well represented in the institutional arrangements in place to manage the development of aquaculture in the country.
This will give a voice of the previously disadvantaged and ensure that development happens with everybody on board, especially the workers who make it possible that fish is produced on the farms.
Comrades, together with the Department of Trade and Industry we are finalising an Agricultural Tariff Policy that would be tabled in Cabinet. Its objective is to ensure that the sector is provided with protection against subsidised imports while ensuring the expansion of local production.
South Africa has a positive trade balance with the world regarding the exports of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products.
South Africa’s major agriculture exports markets are; The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Germany, United States, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Angola and China. And our major agriculture imports countries are; Argentina, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, China, United Kingdom, United States, Malaysia, Netherlands, and Indonesia.
South Africa is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has undertaken certain commitments regarding the reduction of import tariffs, domestic support and export subsidies in terms of the WTO Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture. Build into this agreement was a clause that one year before the end of the implementation of the agreement members will start looking at further reforms in agriculture.
This was linked by other members to other areas of negotiations leading to the Doha Development Agenda mandate that was agreed in Doha in 2001. It is clear that the Doha negotiations will not be concluded this year. However, for South Africa the negotiations and particularly the development mandate and agenda of the negotiations is still of high importance.
The United States has however started a campaign advocating that the Doha mandate is not relevant anymore and that it should be re-looked. We cannot support this position at all. The eight WTO Ministerial meeting will take place during December 2011 where one of the discussions will be on how to continue with the Doha negotiations.
In conclusion, comrade President, please allow me to remind Congress of its own key role in defence of the national democratic revolution. It is up to all of us to join the ranks of those, in the trenches, who are combating poverty and hunger, unemployment and illiteracy and disease. These are among the foremost threats to democratic stability, socio-economic growth and to building social cohesion.
My department and I have already joined hands with the leadership of FAWU. Now it is time for Congress to confirm that the rank and file are truly in the trenches with us because together we can do so much more!
I wish you a successful and fruitful Congress
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
6 Sep 2011
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