Goosebumps. Literally goosebumps. Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on the covid-19 lockdown earlier this evening and took a moment to also thank the agri-sector for their immense contribution to keep the wheels of the country turning.
In a live televised address, the president paid tribute to unsung heroes, including farm workers, technicians, caregivers, medical workers, refuse collectors, supermarket staff and other essential services workers who have been exempted from the lockdown.
Furthermore, he announced that 10 000 people will soon be screening citizens in cities and rural communities for the coronavirus, reiterating that covid-19 affects all people. Ramaphosa said, “It infects the rich and the poor, young and old… those in cities and those in the rural areas. Let us not think this is somebody else’s problem.”
South Africa’s top agricultural leaders, including Koos van Rensburg, managing director of the VKB Group, have committed their support for government’s unprecedented decision to institute a 21-day lockdown to curb further spread of the deadly virus.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi before the president’s address Van Rensburg said: “All of us involved in agriculture and agricultural processing have a dual mandate from the government. We must protect ourselves and surrounding communities from the virus. And we must continue to produce food continuously to ensure that a greater crisis does not occur due to a lack of food.”
Van Rensburg echoed Ramaphosa’s sentiments, recognising that the lockdown is also testimony to the indomitable spirit of South Africa’s people.
“These are definitely challenging times and I just want to express my sincere gratitude to all those who still feed the nation responsibly. Thank you for protecting yourselves against the spread of the virus as far as possible. Thank you for taking care to not spread it further in vulnerable communities. Thank you for contributing to food security in South Africa under these trying circumstances.”
Organised agri plays crucial role in covid-19 task team
Did you know that organised agriculture is represented on the department of agriculture’s covid-19 task team? Representatives of Agri SA, Agbiz, Grain SA and TLU SA are in daily discussions with government to ensure sustained food production amidst the coronavirus lockdown.
Omri van Zyl, the executive director of Agri SA, said the pandemic has also caused large-scale disruption within South African society.
Van Zyl said, “As a country, however, we cannot ignore the implications of this virus and we must comply strictly with the lockdown measures. Essential goods such as all food, cleaning and hygiene products, medical and hospital supplies, fuel and necessities such as airtime, water and electricity, are excluded (from the lockdown).
Van Zyl reiterated that agriculture has an enormous responsibility to ensure that all the necessary precautionary measures were in place for all processes relating to the provision of food to prevent further spreading of the virus.
He said, “In Agri SA’s daily interaction with government we discuss all the existing and potential problems that the sector experiences concerning food production. The minister, Thoko Didiza, then refers these problems to the national covid-19 operational and intelligence task team.”
Lockdown could be blow to small-scale farmers, warns Afasa
The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) has expressed concern about the impact that the covid-19 lockdown will have on the livelihood of particularly small-scale farmers and cooperatives.
Afasa president, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, reminded South Africans that food insecurity is a reality in both rural and urban areas. Also, Ismail Motala, Afasa’s spokesperson in the Western Cape, expressed concern that the lockdown might negatively impact exports.
According to Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at Agbiz, this is a real risk. “Intuition would lead one to expect that agricultural exports will be reduced as the pandemic creates mayhem in the global economy. But people have to eat, and logistics and movement of goods are continuing, so food demand should hold.
“It is therefore difficult to assess the impact of the lockdown regulations, how they are applied and the demand effects of the pandemic on agriculture without unpacking each sector by its subsectors, to enable us to determine who the government should assist in these trying times.”