Farmers in certain parts of South Africa are battling to survive through the current season and Agri SA is very concerned about their viability going forward. Agri SA has done its utmost to assist these farmers in need with emergency measures being implemented across the country to provide feed and fodder to indigent farmers.
“It’s time for government to show its hand with assistance to commercial and small holder farmers” Johannes Moller, President of Agri SA stated. We represent a major tax base as the farming sector and as citizens of South Africa, taxpayers and contributors to the economy it’s a shame that the commercial and emerging farming sectors have not received any assistance from government “. To date we have not received a cent from government” Omri van Zyl, CEO of Agri SA remarked. It seems that government is ill equipped to deal with disasters of this magnitude, moreover it is concerning that the safety net for South Africans have been weakened to such an extent that assistance is not possible” van Zyl remarked.
Moller remarked that in comparison “South African Airlines has been sustained by state guarantees of ±R14.4 billion with an additional R5 billion from Treasury that was just approved. Eskom with state guarantees amounting to R466 billion has reached its “prudency” limit in this regard.
The turnover of the agriculture sector is approximately R227 billion per annum with a net tax contributor of approximately R50 billion in primary agriculture alone over the past 10 years. We employ more than 850 000 people in the sector and we are the only food secure country in Sub Saharan Africa “how do you protect this asset in times of dire need? You help them” van Zyl stated. Agri SA has called for emergency assistance from government, in either state guarantees or direct assistance to farmers through the structures of the Land Bank, Agribusinesses or special purpose vehicles. “Any assistance would be welcome” van Zyl remarked.
“A drought is not just a one-year event, and cash flow and production credit issues will be with us, for the next 2 to 3 years” van Zyl remarked. We have set up our own fund and will continue to provide assistance to farmers in need, but this is a drop in the ocean vis-à-vis what’s required. Moller mentioned that Agri SA will be looking at setting up a long term disaster fund for farmers. Agri SA cannot do it alone and will require financial muscle from treasury of other state entities, the private sector and any other contributors.