Call for urgent drought relief assistance to farmers – Noko Masipa

DA MP says unless urgent steps are taken to provide a soft landing crop farming sector will struggle to recover

DA calls for urgent drought relief assistance to farmers

27 March 2024

The ongoing dry spell across the country induced by the El Niño effect is wreaking havoc on crops across the country and threatening food security. Unless urgent steps are taken to provide a soft landing for affected farmers, the crop farming sector will struggle to recover from the financial devastation.

For this reason, the DA is calling on the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development – Thoko Didiza, to activate the Department’s crisis response war room and take steps to:

Provide a relief package to farmers to enable them to keep losses caused by the drought to a minimum while providing them with incentives to prepare for the next farming season.

Provide assurances to South Africans concerned about the country’s food security and the impact on food prices.

In the next few days, the DA will be conducting oversight visits to select farms across the country to assess the impact of the drought. With Minister Didiza nowhere to be found, the DA has stepped in to fill the leadership vacuum and assure farmers that we will be fighting for the introduction of a draught relief package to lessen the impact of the drought on their bottom line.

The prognosis from the Crop Estimates Committee is grim, with estimates for the maize summer crop showing that harvest for 2024 will come in at 13.26 million metric tonnes, down from the 16.43 million harvested the season before. While this is still enough to cover our domestic consumption needs, reduced harvests will negatively impact our agriculture exports competitiveness and lead to job losses in the sector – which is the largest employer in the country.

Independent agriculture experts have already cautioned that the ongoing drought will exert upward pressure on food prices and worsen the country’s already high cost of living environment. Consumers have been struggling to make ends meet for a long while now, they simply cannot afford to absorb another food price shock.

It does not help that while farmers are battling an unrelenting drought, they are made to contend with a difficult trading environment in the region. Livestock farmers are struggling to keep their operations viable as they are forced to contend with high volumes of imports of calves from Namibia while they are unable to export theirs to Namibia due to strict Foot and Mouth Diesease compliance requirements. Relatedly, South Africa’s vegetable farmers cannot export their produce to Namibia and Botswana, putting our farmers and farm workers in a precarious position.

Farmers are the cornerstone that keeps our country fed and nourished, as such the state has an obligation to come to their aid whenever they face a natural disaster such as a drought. Failure to provide them urgent drought relief assistance now will have dire consequences for our food security in the future.

Issued by Noko Masipa, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, 27 March 2024