Chal­leng­ing times for agri­cul­tural sec­tor

Pretoria News - - OPINION - (no at­tach­ments). All letters must con­tain the writer’s full name, phys­i­cal ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber. No pen names. MPHO M RAMMUTLA

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THE agri­cul­tural sec­tor in the coun­try ap­pears to be re­silient in this dif­fi­cult pe­riod of the re­ces­sion due to Covid-19.

When his­tory is told in the years to come, 2019 and 2020 will stand out as the tough­est years the agri­cul­tural sec­tors have ever ex­pe­ri­enced.

The drought con­di­tions that con­tin­ued in early 2019, that gave prov­inces such as North­ern Cape, North West and Lim­popo to a poor sum­mer crop and hor­ti­cul­ture har­vests.

While the Department of Agri­cul­ture through its pro­vin­cial of­fices was mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of drought and pri­ori­tis­ing drought re­lief pro­grammes across the coun­try, foot and mouth dis­ease (FMD) broke out in Lim­popo prov­ince.

FMD has re­sulted in a tem­po­rary ban on live­stock prod­uct ex­ports, in­clud­ing wool. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the tem­po­rary ban has neg­a­tively af­fected live­stock farm­ers’ in­come and the eco­nomic activities of agri­cul­ture as a whole.

The drought and FMD have led to lower ex­port vol­umes and have re­stricted farm­ers’ in­comes.

With the 21-day lock­down due to the coro­n­avirus, the sec­tor is set to be tested again re­gard­ing whether it can pro­vide sufficient food for the na­tion in this dif­fi­cult time.

It is a re­lief to learn that the Department of Agri­cul­ture, Land Re­form and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment has set aside at least R1.2 bil­lion to as­sist the sec­tor and to en­sure that there is sus­tain­able food pro­duc­tion dur­ing and af­ter the coro­n­avirus out­break.

These funds will be di­rected mostly at as­sist­ing those who are pro­duc­ing veg­eta­bles and pro­tein foods.

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