Covid-19: Gauteng farmers fear ‘ticking time bomb’

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to review the current lockdown level following a spike in Covid-19 cases in particularly Gauteng. While production is still ongoing, farmers tell Food For Mzansi they’ve already been hit by the third wave

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While the nation awaits President Cyril Ramaphosa’s next move following a dramatic spike in Covid-19 cases in Gauteng, farmers in this province insist that their production has not been affected.

They are, however, highly concerned that the deadly virus might affect their workers. As a result, some farmers tell Food For Mzansi they have decided to release their workers until the third wave of coronavirus infections subsides.

In the past few weeks, Gauteng has seen a sustained steady increase in Covid-19 cases. The province is also the epicentre of the third wave, accounting for about 60% of the latest daily increase.

Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to review the current lockdown level for Mzansi after engaging about it with government’s National Coronavirus Command Council. The president says he is “deeply worried” about the Covid-19 infection rate, particularly in Gauteng.

‘It’s just a matter of time’

President of Agri Gauteng, Dr Willem Pretorius. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
President of Agri Gauteng, Dr Willem Pretorius. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The president of Agri Gauteng, Dr Willem Pretorius, tells Food For Mzansi that farmers and agricultural production has not been affected in the province.

He is, however, concerned that it is just a matter of time before farmers and their workers will be infected.

“What we are trying to do, is to help the farmers to be safe and our farmers are also helping people over the age of 60 to get vaccinated,” says Pretorius.

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Eric Mauwane, a vegetable farmer from Tarlton, northwest of Krugersdorp, reduced his production and staff for May, June and July because he saw the third wave coming.

“We knew because we went through this the same time last year in June, but it was not as bad as what was predicted for this year. So, end of May I already made an agreement with the guys that they would take a break of six weeks.

Eric Mauwane, managing director of Oneo Farms in Tarlton, Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/ Food For Mzansi
Eric Mauwane, managing director of Oneo Farms in Tarlton, Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/ Food For Mzansi

“Some are on a break of seven weeks. I told them to stay at home and then they will only come back in the third week of July because we assume that, hopefully, by then the problem might be under control,” he says.

Currently Mauwane only has two employees on his farm, working extra hours to ensure the smooth running of his enterprise.

ALSO READ: Covid-19: African farmers lost 80% of revenue in 2020

Fearing for workers’ safety

Gugulethu Mahlangu, owner of the House Harvest farm in Boksburg, Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Gugulethu Mahlangu, owner of the House Harvest farm in Boksburg, Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Meanwhile, Gugulethu Mahlangu of the House Harvest in Boksburg, had stopped farming even before the third wave hit Gauteng.

“My decision to pause was due to finances and issues I have with my lease agreement. So, it all tied in to save me from a very cold winter which would have frosted my spinach in any case.

“So, I decided to give this one a miss and focus on working towards planting in August for spring. I’m busy working on my skills production with technology and other projects which are less demanding,” she tells Food For Mzansi.

Mahlangu is, however, worried about the safety of her workers amid the Covid-19 third wave. Many are now temporarily working for other farmers. “I hope they will stay safe, continually wear their masks, sanitise and keep a social distance in the fields and not contract or spread the virus to each other.”

ALSO READ: ‘We feed you, so prioritise us for the Covid-19 vaccine’

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