There will be no respite for South African farmers who have been left near-crippled after a now six-week-long moratorium on cattle auctions – not for the time being at least.
Two separate urgent applications – in which two separate groups of farmers, cooperatives and auctioneers are asking a judge to lift the ban – were set down to be heard in the High Court in Pretoria yesterday.
They were both, however, postponed so as to set them down for a special hearing in which they can be heard together.
The department of agriculture, rural development and land reform instituted an effective ban on cattle auctions in early December, in the wake of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Limpopo. This in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.
The farmers, cooperatives and auctioneers in question, though, have now approached the court with two applications – one launched by BGM Trading 88 CC, tradings as A Kok and Sons and others, as well as another launched by JS Auctioneers, trading as Swarico Auctioneers, and others – in the hope of securing a declaratory order that will allow them to continue auctioning their livestock, “subject to certain reasonable control measures”.
Their lawyers say the auctioneers have a combined monthly turnover of at least R465 million and the ban has already led to losses of millions of rands.
“And a continuation of a blanket prohibition of auctions will lead to the demise of the whole auction industry insofar as livestock auctioneers and jobs are concerned,” they said.
They said the department had indicated that the ban may be lifted in six weeks’ time but pointed out that such an undertaking was “of no force and effect”.