MEC Xolile Nqatha
Image: Mark Andrews

Eastern Cape rural development and agrarian reform MEC Xolile Nqatha has committed himself to working with other organs of state to ensure that wool growers’ associations in Mhlontlo municipality are allocated land to run their farms commercially.

The municipality incorporates the rural towns of Qumbu and Tsolo.

Nqatha was speaking ahead of his address to the Eastern Cape Communal Wool Growers’ Association congress held outside Qumbu on Wednesday.

After Mhlontlo wool growers had voiced their challenges, including lack of grazing land, Nqatha said he would interact with the department of rural development and land reform to identify farms for those farmers who were at a commercial level but did not have land for farming.

“We are going to speak with [department officials] to identify farms for some of these farmers who are at the commercial level but do not have adequate land,” he said.

“I have also heeded their call for subdividing of their grazing camps – we are going to ensure fencing is provided.”

More than 1,000 wool producers from all districts of the province attended the event.

Other government departments and private sector partners such as Umtiza, BKB, Zoetis, OVK, CMW, Talitha Pharma and RCL were also in attendance.

The department said the wool industry contributed R3.4bn to the SA economy.

Commercial farmers in the Eastern Cape produce about 10.6-million kilograms of wool while about 3.58-million kilograms is produced by communal farmers.

Nqatha also committed to strengthening relations with the police to fight stock theft.

To ensure the sheep in the province were healthy, the department administered more than 30-million treatments between 2014 and 2017 to control sheep scab.

For the 2018-2019 financial year, the department said it was targeting 7.7-million treatments to combat sheep scab improve the wool clip, at a cost of R10.8m.

In the 2017-2018 financial year, the department allocated R23.8m to support wool producers with provision of shearing sheds, training, mentorship and marketing.

These initiatives created 144 job opportunities, and five unemployed agriculture graduates benefited through experiential learning.

The department said it had also decided to support wool farmers in the province in starting their own wool-quality measurement initiatives.

Eastern Cape Communal Woolgrowers’ Association congress secretary Olivia Sigidi said communal farmers in the province needed access to superior-quality rams to improve their flocks’ genetic quality.

Through its livestock improvement programme, the department is providing rams and ewes to communal farmers and some members of the association have benefited from the programme.

“We have discussed theft and selling of wool to informal markets who in turn sell it at higher prices,” Sigidi said.

“We want the government to implement strict measures to ensure that those who transport wool and livestock to markets have permits.”

She said the department would strengthen its livestockbranding awareness campaign so that all farmers complied with the regulations.

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