Image: Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural development Kwekwe William Bulwane
Bloemfontein: Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural development Kwekwe William Bulwane, says despite lot of challenges the agricultural sector has faced in the province, it continues to remain the most important contributor to the economy and the food hub of South Africa.
Bulwane was saying this on Wednesday when he table department of Agriculture budget, for 2019/2020 financial year.
According to Bulwane the agricultural sector in the Free State comprises of 32 000 square kilometres of cultivated land and 87 000 square kilometres of natural veld and grazing land.
“The contribution of our province to the national mainstream agricultural economy is as follows: sorghum (34%), sunflowers (58%), wheat (16%), maize (43.7%), groundnuts (45%), dry beans (39%), potatoes (40%), Soya Beans (38%), Oats (7%), Beef (19%), Dairy (7%), Sheep (19%), Wool (23%), Pork (8%), Goats (4%), Broilers (6%), and Layers (14%).”
Bulwane indicated that the province only processes 11% of its primary agricultural production, and thus is currently not realizing the full potential of this sector in the province and the country at large.
“The total contribution of Agriculture to the Free State GDP is 4.8% while our contribution nationally Agriculture is 10%. In 2014 the share of agriculture in inclusive economic growth in the country was 4.3% and increased to 5.0% in 2017. The provincial 5.6% growth projection in 2019 is encouraging and this increase will have a positive spin off in the sector.”
Bulwane announced that their aim as department, is to invest in agro-processing and value adding to locally produced agricultural commodities, which will accelerate movement towards import substitution as well as high growth trajectory that will eliminate food insecurity, enable job creation and promote wealth creation within rural communities.
The newly appointed MEC says agriculture department seeks to improve Free State economy by contributing towards vibrant agricultural based industries in collaboration with neighbouring provinces and relevant stakeholders.
“The Department will implement the agricultural development initiatives in line with the master plan through commodity targeted production and value addition within the designated agricultural development hubs.
These hubs and enterprises are as follows:
1: Thabo Mofutsanyana will promote Dairy, Poultry, Grains, Fruits and Livestock;
2: Lejweleputswa will promote– Poultry, Grain, Sorghum and Vegetables;
3: Fezile Dabi will deal with– Poultry, Goats, Grains and Vegetables;
4: Mangaung Metro will focus on– Livestock and Vegetables; and
5: Xhariep will deal with – Livestock, Irrigation, Fish, Game, Fodder and Vegetables Production.
In these hubs, our interventions will focus on strategic partnerships, increase production volumes, promote agro-processing, intensive access to markets for farmers, producers and agri-business.”
Meanwhile since the outbreak of African Swine fever lot of animals died gave farmers headache, however Bulwane says the department is working tirelessly to prevent this diseases.
“The Agricultural sector is confronted with various challenges such as the recent outbreaks of African Swine Fever in the Heilbron and Koppies. The Department has culled the infected animals with compensation to farmers to prevent further spread of the disease.
Disease prevention and control interventions is done on continuous basis to prevent introduction and/or further spread of diseases. The Department continues the fight against Rabies transmission to the human population; Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, Sheep Scab and other disease control.
In order to ensure a healthy animal population the Department will continue to support farmers with Veterinary Services and has set aside R4 million.
These funds will be used for procurement of Veterinary resources for the seven (7) Primary Animal Health Care units located in Welkom, Thaba Nchu, Qwaqwa, Frankfort, Kroonstad, Bloemfontein and Ladybrand. These Primary Animal Health Care facilities are used for providing clinical services to the rural poor communities that normally do not have access to veterinary services.” Said Bulwane