Farmers should receive essential service permits directly from Dept – Annette Steyn

DA MP says farmers being stopped when they travel to work despite agriculture being essential service

DA calls for farmers to receive essential service permits directly from Department of Agriculture

20 April 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to open all agriculture offices across the country to issue permits for small-scale farmers. The Department should directly issue essential service permits to small-scale farmers as the current process by which these permits are issued by municipalities, has proven to be cumbersome and slow.

We have received various reports from small-scale farmers that due to the delays in the issuing of permits by municipalities, farmers are being stopped when they travel to work or to look after their livestock. This despite the agricultural sector having been declared an essential service.

It is ultimately the job of Government to ensure the lockdown regulations have clear provisions to ensure food production takes place. It is also the job of Government to ensure that those enforcing the regulations have a clear understanding of them.

We cannot underestimate the significance of the agricultural sector because now, more than ever, food security and food production are essential to avoid a full-blown national food security crisis.

It is for this reason that the DA will also write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that the Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Portfolio be included in the essential portfolios that meet during this time. It is vital that Parliament performs oversight and prioritises the industry during this lockdown.

South Africa is not only fighting a health crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown. We are also fighting a humanitarian crisis as countless South Africans face the reality of starvation. Thus, the agricultural sector must be able to operate with ease during this time of crisis in order to ensure a steady supply of food and to ensure that workers in this critical sector have access to their wages.

We remain concerned about some of the blanket restrictions Government has imposed and the impact that these will have on the agriculture sector. The DA is of the view that transport and production processes of all agricultural goods must be essential, including the transportation of wine. This must include the full value chain of wine, wool, flowers, tobacco and mohair. Many farmers in the mentioned industries must be able to sell the produce to keep on farming. While we recognise that all sectors of the South African economy will suffer due to the lockdown, the reality is that agriculture is the lifeblood of our very existence.

The DA calls on the Agriculture Minister, Thoko Didiza, to urgently consider our proposal related to permits for small-scale farmers and to ensure that workable solutions are tabled immediately to allow the sector to continue as unhindered as possible during the lockdown.

Issued byAnnette Steyn,DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, 20 April 2020