‘We feed you, so prioritise us for the Covid-19 vaccine’

Dear government, please also prioritise the agricultural sector who are feeding the nation in your Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan. This is the plea of Agri SA who reminds us, 'Farmers and their workers produce food regardless of the third wave of infections'

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While many parts of South Africa is gripped by a third wave of Covid-19 infections, the agricultural sector has pleaded with government to prioritise farmers and their workers for the vaccine.

Christo Van der Rheede, Deputy Executive Director of AgriSA.
Christo Van der Rheede, deputy executive director of AgriSA. Photo: Supplied

In a no-holds-barred media release, Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede says the agricultural sector has been neglected as “essential”. This, while only certain groups were prioritised for vaccinations.

“The national government, who is primarily responsible for the vaccination drive, has prioritised healthcare workers, those over 60 and, recently, educational staff … without considering critical, essential workers such as the agricultural sector,” he says.

With the sector feeding a population of about 59,6 million people, the agricultural sector should have been on top of the list, argues Agri SA.

“The sector has achieved this with sterling success last year and it will do so again this year as another bumper crop is expected,” says Andrea Campher, the organisation’s risk and disaster manager.

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Don’t put food security at risk

Farmers and farmworkers, who mainly live in rural areas and who are most vulnerable to Covid-19, are responsible for producing food regardless of the third wave of infections, Van der Rheede adds.

Andrea Campher, Agri SA's disaster management manager. Photo: Supplied
Andrea Campher, Agri SA’s disaster management manager. Photo: Supplied
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“As they play a critical role in ensuring food security, Agri SA appeals to government to also prioritise the agricultural sector in terms of the national vaccination roll-out.”

The organisation also highlights that attention must be paid to the lack of infrastructure and poorly kept infrastructure, as this may hinder the efficient rollout of the vaccination process in agricultural and rural areas.

“Agri SA is concerned that, should farmers and farmworkers … not be prioritised by national government, it may jeopardise the massive contribution this sector is making in terms of job creation, earning foreign exchange and ensuring food security for all,” Campher says.

Meanwhile, Agri SA also encourages farmers and farmworkers over the age of 60 to register for the vaccine to ensure that further lives are not lost due to this pandemic.

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