Agriculture body faces cash drought
The Agriculture Research Council (Arc) faces a liquidity crisis after years of declining funding due to government cutbacks and the private sector choosing other research avenues.
The council, established in the early 90s, conducts research and develops skills. It generates its revenue through the projects it takes on for farmers and private enterprises, and it also receives a grant from parliament.
The council has had to dip into its cash reserves for the past four years, said Mpho Ramosili, senior marketing and communications manager at the council. She said SA's weak economic growth, recent drought and an underperforming agricultural sector have contributed to the decline.
The parliamentary grant decreased by R252m and the council has received R40m less from the department of science & technology for the operation of national gene banks.
A survey by AgriSA showed a shift in research spending, said Pieter Prinsloo, the chair of the organisation's commodity chamber. The survey, which sampled 19 commodity organisations, found an estimated 75% of agricultural spend had moved from the council to universities, private institutions and other government agencies.
"The impression is that the Arc could no longer keep abreast with the research demand of industry, forcing organisations to seek other partners," said Prinsloo. The council received only an estimated 8% of research spend from agriculture, a drastic change for the once dominant institution.