Challenging times for agricultural sector
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.