DA calls on govt to provide guarantees to save agricultural jobs
21 July 2016
Molweni bantu baseMpuma Koloni.
The Eastern Cape, like its neighbouring province of KwaZulu-Natal, are areas rich with agricultural potential and have been the bread-basket of South Africa.
Sadly this status is being threatened by the worst drought in almost a century. This is made even worse by an ANC government that has failed to table a comprehensive and strategic plan to mitigate the effects of this drought that is driving up the cost of living for the poor and dragging more people into the throes of poverty.
The new planting season, which starts in spring, could see our agriculture industry pushed further into crisis as many of our farmers face bankruptcy as a result of the debilitating drought compounded by government’s inaction. In order to apply for the new planting season, farmers will have had to repay their loans by the end of August.
Due to the crippling effect of the current drought, many farmers will be unable to be granted credit for their crop and therefore be unable to plant for the new season
The DA will therefore formally request the ANC government to make funds available in its Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) for drought relief, in order to assist farmers with obtaining credit for the coming season’s crop and animal feed.
Additionally, the agricultural sector had contracted by 6.7% in the last quarter, according to the most recent figures released by Stats SA. It’s the fifth consecutive quarter in which the sector registered a contraction. With the industry clearly in a recession, and eight out of nine provinces declared disaster areas, it is imperative that the government now take appropriate action to effectively deal with the crisis.
This also means that more jobs will be lost as farms are being forced to downsize and let go of workers which will further add to the ranks of the 8.9 million South Africans without jobs.
I am sad to say that if government doesn’t act, and act fast, the situation will get worse in the coming months.
The simple fact is that the most vulnerable in our communities are at risk of starvation.
South Africa needs about 11 million tonnes of maize every year to satisfy own and export needs. At present, according to latest crop estimates, we will only produce around just over 7 million tonnes and will have to import the rest. Funding, and infrastructure failures will hamper delivery. With food prices rising, possible shortages could hit our shelves from around September onward.
The DA already asked for an allocation to drought relief in the MTBPS in February this year, as we foresaw the crisis now facing farmers and the country’s food security. However, Government ignored these calls and we therefore once again call on government to address this situation by adjusting the MTBPS.
If organised agriculture can have surety from government before the end of August, farmers can be provided with new loans to plant crops in the new season.
Come 3 August South Africans will have a chance to vote for change by voting for the DA, and we will continue holding government accountable and ensure that a coordinated effort is initiated to combat the crippling effects of the drought.
Issued by Annette Steyn, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, 21 July 2016