May 7, 2020
The closing of markets has disrupted the supply of produce and the Covid-19 pandemic has created fears about food security.
This is according to the President of the World Farmers Organisation, Theo de Jager, who is of the opinion that food security in Limpopo, the country and throughout the world could suffer a negative impact in coming months.
“The problem is not exclusive to South Africa. Farmers across the world are experiencing serious problems. Tight measures introduced to slow down the Covid-19 infection rate have affected production on farms, and many workers had to be dismissed due to a lack of income. Many farmers face bankruptcy as half of the world is under lockdown.”
De Jager says there is currently enough food available for consumers from last year’s crop, but it could run out soon.
“South Africa still has enough food, and we will still have enough for another five or six months. The problem will come in after this period. Current crops were planted in November and December, and much of that has lost its markets. Restaurants, hotels, canteens, food vendors, and similar value chains have shut down. Products cannot be sold. On the other hand, many people now simply cannot afford to buy food. Some farmers are already facing financial difficulties.”
Most emerging farmers, according to De Jager, are not able to secure loans.
“Come October or November, banks will no longer issue loans as farmers might not be able to service their current loans. This is a vicious circle which also affects the banks’ ability to render services, so they too are experiencing problems.”
According to De Jager, the Rand/Dollar exchange rate currently poses a further problem as many products such as seed and fertiliser, as well as parts for the maintenance of equipment have to be imported and are exceptionally expensive during the current period. Only a few farmers able to export now, are happy about the rate, he commented.
De Jager said financial bridging is needed to help local farmers survive.
“It is not only the small-scale farmers who received a relief package of R1,2 billion, but everyone finds themselves in dire straits. They feed themselves and the surrounding communities, but commercial farmers, who feed the cities, were promised a relief package of only R100 million.”
Overseas governments, De Jager said, do more to invest in farmers.
“Big farming enterprises also do a lot to feed poor and needy communities, where people need to work every day to have food for the next day, and cannot work currently. Farmers have contributed to feeding schemes in a big way, helping to alleviate hunger. They lose hope, and that is every South African’s problem. The biggest threat is not the virus, but poverty and hunger.”
De Jager said Limpopo, where he farms, is an agriculture-driven province and a lot of export orders were stopped because markets such as hotels and restaurants are closed abroad. The abundance of products available due to this, however, has not led to retailers lowering their prices for the consumer.