It is widely expected that Ramaphosa will be moving the country to level one of the national coronavirus lockdown. The agricultural sector hopes that this might remove the final limitations that are hampering it from operating optimally.
While major parts of the economy were decimated by covid-19 lockdown restrictions, most of the agricultural sector came off relatively lightly, since it was deemed an essential service sector from early on in the lockdown. However, border restrictions and the reduced alcohol trading hours are still preventing agriculture from functioning optimally as a unit, say leaders.
Dr. John Purchase, chief executive officer of Agbiz, says the biggest restrictions in the agriculture sector are around cross-border restrictions.
“For example, getting shearers from Lesotho to South Africa for wool shearing; we still have not been able to get them in to South Africa and approximately 70% of our wool shearers come from Lesotho.” He says that agriculture is functioning close to optimally, apart from these impacts in the border areas.
Alcohol trading hours
Purchase also hopes to have alcohol trading hours normalised. “We are still looking to get the trading hours expanded for offsite use, in other words not just Monday to Thursday but also right up to Saturday,” he says.
Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA’s deputy executive director, says agriculture was fortunate enough to operate optimally during the lockdown with the exception of the wine and tobacco industry.
“They had some serious challenges, but I think that under level one lockdown we will be able to operate optimally,” he says.
However, he hopes that the alcohol trading hours will be extended and the ban on international travel will be lifted. “One hopes that the alcohol sales will be available throughout the week and over the weekends and that exports can open up on a larger scale,” he says.
He considers agri-tourism to be a priority now. If visitors are allowed to fly to South Africa it will be a great boost for this industry, he says.
“In other words, all tourists will be able to come to South Africa and enjoy our wine farms and restaurants. I think if there are more people coming to the wine farms it will stimulate the demand side of the agricultural sector, and that’s what we need now,” he says.