Covid-19: Agri working towards the ‘new normal’


A silver lining to the disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the agriculture sector, is how farmers have embraced technology in dealing with the fallout. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

As our country goes further into the third wave, the carnage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming even more stark. Aron Kole, managing director of FarmSol, says that we need to adapt to “the new norm“.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone. Not only small scale or larger farmers, but really everyone in the industry. We must, of course, celebrate how resilient the agricultural industry stood during this time, but we also need to acknowledge all the challenges.

And it has definitely not been “business as usual” for our new emerging and smallholder farmers at FarmSol. The role the beer industry plays in supporting the agricultural sector should never be underestimated, as most of the agricultural raw materials are locally sourced and the farmers relying on the sector faces a tough outlook due to the continuing and devastating alcohol bans. Household income derived from the sale of agricultural raw materials produced by farmers for the beer industry extends wide; this is the sole income for most farmers and safeguarding this offtake markets is vital as agriculture remain the best tool to fight poverty and unemployment, particularly in our rural areas. Prior to the pandemic, farmers were already experiencing a variety of pressures, including adverse weather conditions, livestock theft, and fluctuating market prices. Now, the pandemic has added even more challenges. For instance, farmers used to participate in farmer’s days where they would have access to a wealth of information. The restrictions put in place to prevent the virus from spreading effectively cut farmers off from accessing that information. There is also a general sense of anxiety running through the farming community, due to alcohol bans and the general uncertainties brought by Covid-19. 

So, while we celebrate the resilience of those in the agricultural sector, we must be careful not to gloss over the challenges farmers have been facing.

It is also important however, to acknowledge that farmers have been getting more creative to beat the challenges they face. They have been finding ways to live with the new norm, and ensuring that their business endeavours continue.

We have to always strive to look at how can we best protect each other. But at the same time, we need to protect livelihoods, including adapting to the new way of doing things.

We need to embrace the use of technology like we are doing now; embrace technology, and keep using it to the best of our ability. If we have to look for a positive effect from the tragedy of the pandemic, it is the way we are embracing new ways and the new norm of doing things.

ALSO READ: New farmers: Start small to avoid ‘big farm, big problems’

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