The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Farmers sleep with one eye open as stock theft costs SA R1.4bn annually

The Mercury

26 Feb 2021

BONGANI HANS bongani.hans@inl.co.za

LIVESTOCK theft is costing the South African economy about R1.4 billion annually, said Willie Clack, the national chairperson of the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum (NSTPF).

As a result of the damages caused by this crime to the agricultural industry, NSTPF said it would always consider livestock theft as “serious” irrespective of decreases in the crime.

“It does have a serious impact on people,” he said.

Despite the fact that Police Minister Bheki Cele, in his 2020/21 crime statistics report, indicated that livestock theft declined by 6.9 percent, farmers, especially in the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, still sleep with one eye open.

Clack said the more commercial farmers suffered livestock theft the more the meat or dairy industries were at risk of losing their production and business.

The weakest link in the security chain were unsecured borders between South Africa and its immediate neighbours, such as eSwatini and Lesotho. Farmers are unable to recover their animals once they cross the porous borders.

Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions has also expressed its concern about the crime’s economic impact on its 12 member states. Chief executive Ishmael Sunga said livestock theft robbed commercial livestock owners of their income and capital assets.

He said as a result farmers and other related businesses, such as dairy and meat products producers, have been forced to reduce the number of their employees.

“If it was going to be put on the market and generate sales, it basically means that there is not sufficient revenue going to the government. If it is going to cause shortages of meat, the price of meat is going to go up,” he said.

Sunga said he could not outline the extent of the problem in the organisation’s member states, except for South Africa where AgriSA provides information on a regular basis. “It (livestock theft) is numbered (in other member states) but is not high up (on the list of challenges).”

He said among less industrialised farmers in southern Africa, livestock theft had hit hard. “If one steals cattle, which are used for many purposes, particularly on the smallholding farms, the owner’s world is stolen because they are not able to plant and plough on time,” he said.

In December last year it was reported that livestock theft and poaching had cost Eastern Cape farmers more than R260m. Free State farmers were estimated to have lost hundreds of millions of rand.

Free State Agriculture Safety and Risk Analyst Dr Jane Buys said: “If you do a calculation of the replacement value of a sheep and the replacement value of a cow, it is between R30 million a month and R50m a month. When we did an estimate three years ago, we also came to over R1 billion.”