Agricultural leaders and farmers in the region reacted with shock, disbelief and disappointment last week to the announcement by the national ram management centre that the drought no longer enjoys disaster status and that the funds will henceforth be used for Covid-19.
Agricultural leaders predicted that this would put further pressure on agriculture in the region and could have a ripple effect because the sector has a major impact on towns’ economies.
Joey Potgieter, chairman of Agri Klein Karoo, said on Monday that it was not strange for agriculture to see ill-considered decisions by some government departments.
“We are praised in the Covid-19 era as the food suppliers that keep people’s stomachs full, but the system and systems work counterproductively against agriculture.”
According to him, this now means that the government no longer allocates funds to specific areas.
“All other aid packages for agriculture expire. Even at municipal level.”
Agriculture is already under pressure. The markets such as the ostrich industry, for example, have been closed for almost four months.
“Your operating costs continue, but the tap for the inflow of income has been turned off. In the Little Karoo, agricultural leaders are getting stuck in cashflow problems. There are several factors such as the drought that has been coming since 2014 and now the Covid-19 situation. ”
According to Henry Meyer, Garden Route regional representative of Agri Western Cape, people in agriculture have always had it in the back of their minds that commercial farmers will be helped. He farms himself in the Brandwag / Ruiterbos area near Mossel Bay.
“Any small amount will help. The announcement proved to me that our expectation was in vain.”
He is aware of farmers who locked all the gates of their farms and went looking for another place to live.
Meyer does not expect food shortages, but food is likely to be very expensive.
Jannie Stander, a well-known dairy and vegetable farmer from George, said the small farmers would get even heavier. The message is not good for the minds of the majority of farmers who do not get help anyway. He added: “Farmer has already learned to adapt and provide for himself.”
According to Jan Volschenk, who farms at Ladysmith with his father, La Grange, it will especially affect livestock farmers and small/subsistence farmers. In the area, many people are unemployed. The fruit crops were smaller and fewer workers were needed to harvest the fruit.
In addition, there are many questions in agriculture about, for example, climate change. Farmers want to know if they are still producing the right products. Farmers, however, strive to remain positive.
Thys Sutherland, a dairy farmer from the Heidelberg area, agreed that the latest events will affect agriculture, especially farmers involved in dry and arable lands and livestock farmers.
Agriculture is a major employer in the region and it also affects the families and dependents of employees.
This article first appeared on George Herald and was republished with permission.