The agricultural sector grew employment by 65 000 from December 2009 to December last year, says Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
"Employment in agriculture grew by around 65 000 from December 2009 to December 2013, reversing a trend of job losses stretching back to the 1970s.
"In an effort to improve the rural economy, household income and access to nutrition, a total of 1 740 555 hectares of land were acquired, redistributed and restituted or restored from 2009 up to September 2013," Minister Patel said on Tuesday.
Minister Patel was speaking at a post State of the Nation Address Economic Sectors and Employment and Infrastructure Development cluster media briefing in Cape Town.
The minister added that about R20 billion was spent between 2009 and 2013 to implement land restitution and distribution. To ensure sustained production on productive land, he said, 700 000 smallholder producers - including those under the recapitalisation and development programme - were supported through various initiatives, including access to finance and mentoring.
Fetsa Tlala (end hunger) programme
The Fetsa Tlala programme, which aims to support emerging farmers, was launched in October last year in Kuruman by President Jacob Zuma.
Minister Patel said planting was taking place on 230 000 hectares of land in six provinces, with half of the land set aside for smallholders.
"A total of 10 271 resource-poor, historically disadvantaged producers were supported to access water for agricultural purposes and over 18 000 hectares were irrigated during this period. From 1 April 2009 until 31 December 2013, a total 2 400 000 hectares of land has been added to the area of land under rehabilitation and restoration," he said.
According to the minister, a total of 3 486 000 hectares was cleared as part of follow-up treatment.
"A further 33 341 smallholder producers were assisted to access markets and 1 284 producer cooperatives and marketing depots were established in order to increase their competitiveness and take advantage of market opportunities," he said.
He said an additional 22 cooperatives have been linked to the Department of Social Development's Food for All programmes as part of procuring produce for social programmes from the very smallholders who are being supported by government.
The Department of Agriculture drafted an Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP), with a focus on six value chains based on their potential contribution to food security, job creation, growth potential and potential contribution to the trade balance, including by replacing imports.
Primary animal healthcare
"Furthermore, we have committed to extending the primary animal healthcare programme to smallholders in all provinces.
"In the past year, 23 mobile animal clinics were procured and delivered to remote rural areas," Minister Patel said. The scientific committee of the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has confirmed the restoration of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) free-status, which enables South Africa to negotiate with the trade partners to lift the export ban on red meat.
Minister Patel said the confirmation of the restored FMD free-status is a positive step for trade and markets access for the industry.
Work opportunities in rural areas
With regard to work opportunities in rural areas, Minister Patel said a total of 3 384 small rural enterprises were established in different sectors between 2010 and 2013.
"We were also able to link 170 196 poor and vulnerable South Africans, including recipients of social grants, to economic opportunities," he said.
In rural areas, a total of 3 422 110 work opportunities were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), including the Community Work Programme, since 2010.
Most of these jobs were created under the infrastructure sector of the EPWP. An additional 798 586 full-time equivalent jobs were created in different sectors from 2010 to date.