R43-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested into a failed dairy farm project in Port St Johns, in the Eastern Cape, that currently produces just 350 litres of milk a day.
The Mantusini Dairy project was established on 373 hectares of communal land in Ward 7 in the Port St Johns Local Municipality and should benefit some 500 individual households under communal tenure.
Instead, it is has become a shining example of a failed government-funded agricultural project that does not benefit local communities at all!
We need to eradicate the ongoing wastage of taxpayers’ money, which has become far to commonplace in the Eastern Cape.
Since 2014, the Eastern Cape’s Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) and the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) have supported the project with infrastructure and dairy cows.
In response to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance, the MEC for DRDAR, Nomakhosazana Meth, confirmed that combined, the two departments have invested over R43,1 million in the project, of which R8,5 million has come from the provincial department.
The agricultural sector in the Eastern Cape is under huge stress as a result of the ongoing drought, and we need to ensure that funds are redirected to support sustainable farming operations.
MEC Meth also revealed that the project has virtually ground to a halt, as milk-production by July 2020 was as low as 350 litres a day.
What makes the aforesaid daily production figures even more ludicrous is that 315 dairy cows produce this milk. On average, a dairy cow should produce between 20 and 30 litres of milk per day.
So poor is the production that Sundale Dairies, which was contracted to Mantusini to buy all the milk produced at the facility, has terminated collection as it was not financially viable.
Ostensibly, the main reason for the low milk yield by the cows was the fact that the dairy project had insufficient capital to produce enough feed for the cows. This is extremely concerning in and of itself, as it means is that the facility is being mismanaged and the cows are malnourished.
Amadlelo Dairy previously managed the project, but they have been replaced by Creamtop* as the joint venture partner.
Creamtop has since indicated, in September, that it would specifically focus on the revival of the pastures and improve the state of the dairy cattle, to ensure that the project produces 24 000 litres of milk a day.
The Democratic Alliance will now monitor progress at the Mantusini Dairy project over the next couple of months. We will also ask for an audit of all agricultural projects in the province so that we can identify failing or struggling projects in need of intervention.
If we are going to arrest the trend towards a failed state, we need to create opportunities for those people who deserve it.
*Note: the IQP response provided refers to Green Top, however the correct name of the new venture partner in Creamtop