While the Free State provincial government “celebrated” transport month in October, farmers in the province say they have been forced to make emergency repairs to fix the life-threatening state of roads before the festive season.
Farmers in the province are furious about the lack of progress made in maintaining rural roads.
According to Dr Jack Armour, Free State Agriculture (FSA) commercial manager, preparations for the new planting season have started and require the transport of agriculture inputs, and harvested grain to silos.
“Normally, nature presents farmers’ biggest operational challenge. Yet, the road infrastructure is becoming the biggest stumbling block for the Free State’s agricultural sector’s ability to produce food for the country. The expected summer rains will surely exacerbate the poor condition of rural roads further,” he said.
The problem is the department of police, roads and transport’s budget and their appointment of incapable contractors, says Armour. “Budgets only get spent months after initial approval and then contractors with no operational capital or capacity get appointed to do the work through the province’s CDP and EPWP programmes.”
In one incident a contractor under the Contractor Development Programme (CDP) was working on marking the road between Bultfontein and Wesselsbron without the proper signage, warning flags or reflective safety vests. A car ended up driving into them, killing two workers and leaving another badly injured.
The department’s centralised yellow fleet capacity is basically non-existent due to a lack of maintenance and poor management, FSA said.
The organisation pointed to the state having a shortage of qualified grader operators. Budgeted-for “pick and shovel” workers are furthermore not being appointed to clear out and replace broken road culverts and drains that open up critical water ways and direct water away from the roads.
FSA said the province’s CDP and EPWP programmes have not only failed but stand out as the root cause of the road infrastructure collapse in the province in the name of “job creation”, adding that a poor and deteriorating transport infrastructure in the Free State drastically affects the whole rural community, depriving people of critical services.
Increase in black spot citrus fungus
South Africa’s black spot management system for citrus has proven its worth in recent years with interceptions of the fungus dropping from 50 over the years down to just two in 2020. But 2021 saw the return of higher numbers and the citrus industry has been in discussions with the European Commission standing committee on plant health to revise their current phytosanitary systems.
In an article by FreshPlaza.com, Deon Joubert, the Citrus Growers’ Association envoy to the EU, said that while Mzansi’s systems work, they ware never designed to cope with a black swan event which occurred this year. “Eight weeks of a complete breakdown in logistics and the cold chain,” Joubert pointed out.
“South Africa has had the citrus black spot (CBS) and false codling moth (FCM) pests throughout all this time and South Africa displays remarkable capacity to self-regulate and mitigate the risk of pest symptoms to virtually zero.” It meant that, even in bad years like 2021, 99.8% of consignments were free of any pest symptoms.
“We don’t want the events of 2021 leading to excessive measures to be introduced. We believe our research on the life cycles of the pests under discussion is excellent,” he said.
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