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Farmers Appeal for Relief Amid Drought

13 Nov 2019

The Witness

News24

As­ the­ drought­ across­ South­ Africa continues­ to­ threaten­ farmers, food­ security­ has­ been thrust­ into­ the­ spotlight,­ with agricultural­ organisations­ appealing for­ relief.­ ­

According­ to­ Agri­ SA’s2019/2020­ agriculture­ report,37,44%­ of­ rural­ communities­ in South­ Africa­ are­ currently­ affected by­ drought.­ ­

The­ Western­ Cape,­ Northern Cape ,­Eastern­ Cape­ and­ Limpopo have­ been­ hit­ the­ worst ,­ with­ real agricultural­ output ­9,2%­ lower­ in­ the­ first­ half­ of ­2019­ than­ the­ same­ period­ in ­2018,­ the­ report­ stated several­ industries­—­including­ red­ meat­ production,­ maize,­ horticulture­ and­ dairy ­ —­ have­ been­ affected­ by­ the­ drought ,­ which­ has­ led­ to­ output­ shortages,­ financial­ constraints­ and­ a­ decline­ in­ employment­ figures .­

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Jannie­ de­ Villiers­ of­ Grain­ SA explained­ that­ because­ of­ the drought,­ grain­ farmers­ have­ been late­ to­ plant­ in­ 2019­ —­ this­ on top­ of­ the­ fact­ that­ the­ 2018season­ didn’t­ produce­ good yields­ either.­ “If­ we­ look­ at­ the forecast,­ we­ are­ worried.­ The grain­ sector­ cannot­ take­ another drought,”­ De­ Villiers­ said.­ ­

De­ Villiers­ said­ food­ security must­ remain­ the­ number­ one priority­ for­ South­ Africa.­ He­ appealed to­ government­ for­ assistance.­

He­ said­ that­ the­ country­ had a­ choice­ between­ eating­ and­ flying, alluding­ to­ SAA­ which­ has been­ bailed­ out­ several­ times­ in the­ past­ to­ the­ tune­ of­ hundreds of­ millions­ of­ rands.­

Agri­ SA’s­ Willem­ Symington said­ the­ main­ concern­ was­ that the­ drought­ would­ eventually lead­ to­ food­ insecurity­ and­ that climatic­ disasters­ must­ be­ managed better­ by­ government­ and stakeholders.­ ­

Symington­ explained­ that farmers­ across­ the­ board­ were suffering­ financial­ constraints, which­ impeded­ production­ and cast­ doubt­ on­ the­ sustainability of­ farmers­ in­ the­ coming­ years.­ ­

Gerhard­ Schutte­ from­ the­ Red Meat­ Producers’­ Organisation said­ the­ drought­ had­ severely impacted­ commercial­ and­ emerging farmers­ in­ the­ meat­ sector, to­ the­ point­ that­ farmers­ were being­ forced­ to­ slaughter­ livestock because­ they­ didn’t­ have enough­ feed.­ ­

He­ also­ called­ for­ aid­ from government,­ for­ both­ the­ commercial and­ emerging­ sectors.­ ­

Agri­ SA’s­ Christo­ van­ der Rheede­ and­ Omri­ van­ Zyl­ said the­ drought­ was­ a­ national­ issue that­ affected­ all­ South­ Africans and­ had­ to­ be­ solved­ through the­ intervention­ of­ South­ Africans.

“Many­ of­ our­ farmers­ and­ rural people­ are­ at­ the­ end­ of­ their wits­ end­ of­ the­ line.­ It’s­ time that­ we­ all­ take­ hands­ and­ solve this­ problem­ together­ as­ a­ nation, ”Van­ Zyl­ said.­ ­

Van­ der­ Rheede­ appealed­ to the­ public­ for­ donations­ to­ their disaster­ fund,­ which­ is­ audited and­ would­ go­ a­ long­ way­ in­ providing relief­ for­ farmers­ during the­ drought.­ ­

He­ said­ Agri­SA­ and­ the­ Department of­ Agriculture,­ Land­ Reform­ and­ Rural­ Development­ had­ also­ agreed­ to­ collaborate­ on­ an­ effort­ to­ mitigate­ drought­ risk.­ Symington­ said­ that­ while­ it­ was­ not­ necessary­ to­ call­ for ­a­ national­ disaster­ to­ be­ declared ,­ the­ disaster declarations ­in­ Limpopo ,­ the­ Western­ Cape ,­ Eastern­ Cape­ and­ Northern­ Cape­ should­ have­ been­ made­ more­ than­ a­ year­ ago­ to­ maximise­ the­ impact­ of­ relief.