Flood damage: 60% of crops in western FS at risk

Optimism about good summer rains have made way for worry over too much water during planting season in parts of the Free State. Photo: Sonja Prinsloo/Facebook

Optimism about good summer rains has made way for worry over too much water during planting season in parts of the Free State. Photo: Sonja Prinsloo/Facebook

More than 60% of planted crops in the western Free State are at risk because of serious flood damage and Free State Agriculture (FSA) has set a district flood disaster declaration process in motion.

“Urgent intervention is going to be needed to assist to keep flood-ravaged farmers in the Lejweleputswa district on their land” says Jakkals le Roux, FSA representative for the Nala municipal area, which includes the major maize-producing regions of Wesselsbron and Bothaville.

According to a press statement released by FSA this morning (Thursday, 6 January 2022), immense flood damage was also reported in the Tokologo Municipality between Hertzogville and Christiana, in Tswelopele between Bultfontein and Wesselsbron, and in the Masilonyana Municipality.

Here, a mine tailings dam into which the municipality releases raw sewage burst its walls, flooding massive tracts of farmland, possibly with concentrated arsenic and heavy metal contamination.

Free State Agriculture press statement

“With these multiple local municipalities all being within the Lejweleputswa District, FSA has appealed to the district disaster management officer to mobilise staff to conduct an assessment of the extent of the damage.

“The head of department of the department of agriculture informed FSA that the matter has been presented to the executive committee. FSA will be attending a meeting with the MECs of agriculture and police, roads and transport on Tuesday, 11 January to discuss rapidly deteriorating roads infrastructure and the flooding disaster.”

Appeal for relief

Besides possible tax relief interventions from a cash-strapped government, FSA also appeals to agribusinesses, banks and insurance companies to help keep farmers in business as state help alone will not recover all farmers’ lost capital investments into the crops of an entire production season.

Le Roux states that comprehensive cover no longer exists as an insurance product and farmers have to specify whether they insure for hail, frost, locusts and/or chemical damage. Floods and droughts can furthermore not be insured against; only input cost insurance can be obtained where a production loan is taken out to plant a crop.

Even if the ground dries out sufficiently after historical record-high rainfalls in many parts of the Free State, it is too late to still replant maize, soya and even sunflowers.

Where crops survive, they are competing with a vigorous weed growth and all fertiliser has leached away, requiring expensive foliar feeding or surface spreading.

Many farmers are still waiting for water levels to drop so that they can get into their lands to properly assess the damage.

ALSO READ: Rain in Mzansi: Hope, at last, for battered provinces!

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