As the country deals with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, agriculture is coming to the fore as a key role player. Farmers, especially the small-scale producers, are being singled out as a saving grace to keep local and national food supplies going.
Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) CEO dr John Purchase recently met with pres Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the impact the virus would have on the South African market. He says the outcome of the meeting highlighted the key role farmers would play in the economic sector during the crisis.
“Food security and agriculture have been identified as a key sector in these trying times that we are in now,” he says.
Purchase says while the Covid-19 crisis will pose many challenges to food security it is up to the agricultural sector to keep producing food.
“Small-scale farmers can play a massive role in terms of household food security and even national food security in maintaining their supply chains and food production,” he adds.
Meanwhile, on the farm
While the country and the rest of the world reels with the impact of coronavirus crisis measures, farmers are still doing what they do best.
Free State farmer Henk Harmse says during this time it is business as usual on his farm in Bultfontein. “I’m keeping my personnel up to date on what’s going on and what we hear from outside. I am trying to keep them informed on how to keep practicing hygiene properly and make sure that they don’t fall under that big stone that’s coming for everyone.”
He says this is the time for farmers to “do what you do best. If you are a pal of God then he will protect you no matter what, he has a plan for everything!”
Farmer Thabo Dithakgwe shared his sentiments. The North West farmer believes farmers have a civil obligation to continue producing fresh produce.
“Farmers are quarantined for their whole lives on the farm to feed the nation. That’s their pledge to you the people, so they are not shutting down, we are not quarantined. We are doing the work that needs to be done,” he says.
Small-scale farmers are key
Agri Western Cape chief executive officer, Jannie Strydom, says we cannot afford to underestimate the contribution of small-scale farmers. “It’s very important that they still keep on producing, they are absolutely contributing to the formal and informal markets.”
Although clear and stringent measures were put in place by government, Strydom says the impact of the crisis on the economic sector remains uncertain.
“We have no idea what the financial and socio-economic impact of this virus will be. As of now our harbours are still open. The question is what happens on the other side where (our exports are) offloaded and that will have a huge impact. We are all certain that it’s going to have a huge economic impact on the (agriculture) sector,” he adds.