Farming remains an essential service and the country’s producers are leaving no stone unturned to feed the nation amid the 14-day hard lockdown.
This, after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday evening announced that the agricultural sector, along with factories, mines and retail stores, would be allowed to operate during the adjusted level 4 period.
For Peter Nyathi, the owner of Tropical Mushrooms in Gauteng, time is money. Being able to operate amid the pandemic restrictions, is a great relief, he says. In his agribusiness, his produce has to continue making its way to hundreds of retail stores across the country.
“If we had to stop working now, we may never be able recover because the
cycle is not easy to break. Mushrooms don’t stop growing.
“Each cycle is about 11 weeks, so even if I say to my workers, ‘Don’t come [to work because of the lockdown]’ it means that the whole crop for the next two weeks is lost. So, you can’t recover from that work.”
However, working in Gauteng as the epicentre of the third Covid-19 wave, remains worrying. Nyathi tried his best to put health and safety protocols in place to protect his workers from Covid-19 infection in the workplace.
“We have been lucky that since last year, we only had two people that tested positive. We tried to maintain safe distancing, wearing of masks, and checking temperatures as people come in.
“This year, we haven’t experienced infections, but we will continue putting in place all those necessary protocols that have worked in the past to protect out farmers.”
‘If we are breathing, we are in danger’
Meanwhile, Matshidiso “Boer Bae” Parage, a livestock farmer from Warrenton in the Northern Cape, says the 14-day will affect her business and income.
“When I have to go sell my stock, the prices will be low which means that I won’t be able get the money I was expecting, just like last year when were on level 4,” she says.
Metsana Konjane, a beekeeper from Mahikeng in North West, tells Food For Mzansi she has come to accept that she can get Covid-19 anywhere.
“It can just find you at home, so even at home you are not secure. For as long as we are breathing, we are in danger.”
Konjane says her farm is not located in a densely populated area, which makes her feel safer.
For Siviwe Tikana, a dairy and pig farmer near East London in the Eastern Cape, level 4 lockdown “is business as usual”. However, he is concerned that mills might not be able to operate at full capacity.
“We might have delays with our feed and getting all our feed out because of a shortage of workers. Further than that, it is business as usual here. I just feel sorry for all the other people that are being affected hectically by this whole thing.”