South Africa farmers appeal for governments support as drought escalates

SOUTH AFRICA – Commercial farmers in South Africa have appealed for financial support from the government as researchers say dry weather and hot conditions may persist in the country, reports Business Day.

AgriSA, a farmers’ lobby group in SA, said that the country’s crop and livestock sector is facing serious challenges that could affect agricultural industry and requires at least US$220 million to assist its producers.

AgriSA chief executive, Omri van Zyl said the drought had spread across all sectors, stressing that maize farmers in North West and Free State were at their wits end.

Van Zyl said the sector has already lost 32 000 jobs to the drought which has also affected the production of livestock, wine, fruit, ostrich and red meat in the provinces of Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Limpopo.

“We are very concerned that it’s going to get worse.

We need intervention from government. This is almost a national disaster and this will have an impact on food price inflation and job creation,” Van Zyl said.  

A survey in December revealed that US$510 million has already been lost to the drought even as majority of farmers in North West and Free, which produce 72% of the total white maize harvest in the country, are struggling to plant.

The situation has attracted attention from various groups within the sector all appealing for support to the industry including the Agricultural Business Chamber.

Gerhard Schutte Chief Executive Officer Red Meat Producers Association has also called for interventions from to help alleviate the situation.

“As the situation stands, we are going to lose farmers, we are going to lose livestock.

We need drought aid. If that aid isn’t in place by the beginning of winter, we really have serious problems,” Schutte said.  

Director General Mike Mlengana from the department of agricutrure said the government would be engaging farmers in the next few weeks to ensure food security.

“If basic maize is not there as a result of the drought then we need interventions right now, all we need now is to respond pragmatically,” he added

Econometrix chief economist Azar Jammine said the US$220 million could help affected farmers plant a little bit of the maize crop and stem the impact of declining production.

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