On 26 May, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development attended to communal livestock farmers’ concerns.
At issue was seemingly the abrupt closure of the National Red Meat Development Programme (NRMDP) Custom Feedlots, which has seen 100 employees remain jobless with over 2 250 communal livestock left stranded without technical support and markets.
“Since October 2020, the department, ARC and NAMC made every effort to ensure that the programme was restarted, but unfortunately a number of cattle had died in the process and infrastructure affected”, said Eastern Cape Feedlot Association Mzimkhulu Jikijela.
According to the association, the programme’s contract was unfairly terminated without farmers being given adequate time and space to prepare for the exit, in order to ensure self-sustainability of the custom feedlots.
Jikijela further accused the Minister and officials of sending them from pillar to post, with no adequate feedback and they were still baffled by Minister Thoko Didiza’s decision to suddenly cut the programme mid-way.
“Chairperson, we are asking for political intervention, because the programme was giving a really bad picture of the government, as the infrastructure, the feed and the cattle were available, but there were no people to feed the cattle” said Jikijela.
The NRMDP is a livestock programme launched in 2014 by the then Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, with the implementation agency falling under the National Agricultural Marketing Council.
According to the NAMC’S 2018/2019 Annual Report, the NRDMP operated in 3 provinces (Eastern Cape, North West, Kwa-Zulu Natal) with 28 auctions held, 6000 livestock sold and R48 million in revenue generated.
In 2020, the programme contributed a sizable number of livestock for exports to Al Mawashi. Since the Custom Feedlots interruption, the association worried of farmers missing on market opportunities.
The Association painted the excellent work done by the former department, various chiefdoms, provincial departments and the NAMC in assisting their members to contribute to red meat production.
Towards the closure of the hearing, the association accepted the department’s rationale for the programme in terms of mandate, falling under ARC rather than NAMC.
“The only problem standing between the feedlots organisation was communication by the Department, the ARC and NAMC in terms of what they had planned for us and for the red meat programme in general” added Deputy Chairperson of EC Custom Feedlot Association, Nopisi Sefatsa.