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.
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.
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.
“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.