Most of SA a ‘state of dis­as­ter’

CityPress - - Business - JUSTIN BROWN and ALDI SCHOEMAN busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter Des van Rooyen this week de­clared a state of dis­as­ter in eight prov­inces be­cause of the on­go­ing drought in the coun­try.

Gaut­eng was the only prov­ince that was not in­cluded as a dis­as­ter zone.

Ear­lier this month, Par­lia­ment passed a mo­tion that the drought should be de­clared a na­tional dis­as­ter.

How­ever, this week, in­stead of declar­ing a na­tional state of dis­as­ter, Van Rooyen led a meet­ing of the in­ter­min­is­te­rial task team on drought, af­ter which eight prov­inces tech­ni­cally be­came “states of dis­as­ter”.

“The drought con­di­tions ex­pe­ri­enced in most parts of the coun­try are a re­sult of nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena char­ac­terised by be­low-nor­mal rain­fall, and in­creased max­i­mum tem­per­a­tures and heat waves,” Van Rooyen said.

Omri van Zyl, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of AgriSA, said fund­ing from pro­vin­cial cof­fers would help com­mer­cial and small farm­ers get through the win­ter and on to the next plant­ing sea­son.

“This is crit­i­cal for South Africa’s food sup­ply and food se­cu­rity,” said Van Zyl.

It would take at least 12 to 18 months for the agri­cul­tural sec­tor to re­cover from the drought, he added.

The re­cov­ery phase was now vi­tally im­por­tant, he said.

There was also a con­cern that some farm­ers had reached their debt limit and wouldn’t be able to plant in the next sea­son, said Van Zyl.

“We want to keep our pro­duc­ers in pro­duc­tion to en­sure food se­cu­rity,” he added.

An­nette Steyn, the DA MP who pro­posed the na­tional dis­as­ter mo­tion, said it could help that con­ces­sions were made for farm­ers who could not se­cure fur­ther loans be­cause they al­ready had too much debt.

She also sug­gested that money should be given to the Land Bank and that work should be done with co­op­er­a­tives, rather than through the pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of agri­cul­ture, to dis­trib­ute drought aid ef­fec­tively.

Although Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han in­di­cated that the ques­tion of aid for farm­ers would be looked at again in the ad­just­ment bud­get in Oc­to­ber, Steyn said farm­ers could not wait un­til then.

AgriSA sug­gested that its in­fra­struc­ture should be used to dis­trib­ute drought aid be­cause it al­ready knew where the need was great­est, which farm­ers had feed for sale, what prices to pay for it and how to trans­port it the best way.

AgriSA had on its own al­ready raised R18 mil­lion through do­na­tions for drought re­lief and un­locked R60 mil­lion us­ing its in­fra­struc­ture, said Van Zyl.

“You don’t have to shoot out the lights with fund­ing. With R1 bil­lion, or even R500 mil­lion, you can go a long way.”

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