In parts of the country where roads are particularly run down, some farmers say they are on the verge of throwing in the towel. Transport problems are not only speeding up the erosion of their profitability but bad roads – made even worse by heavy rains recently – have proven to be deadly.
A young farmer from Thaba Nchu in the Free State, Tsholofelo Motlhale, tells Food For Mzansi that flood waters have turned a bad situation into a major problem.
“Our roads infrastructure is in such a terrible state, delivery trucks and our distributors cannot enter our farms during rainy days. We cannot transport anything heavy like cattle and big loads of crops. It delays work and costs us more money for operations,” she says.
Motlhale recently had to fork out hard-earned cash when a truck that was supposed to sink a borehole got stuck in the mud for three days and the contractor charged extra for the down time. The truck was eventually pulled out by a tractor and backhoe loader.
Another farmer in the Free State, Hannetjie Human from Reitz, says that farmers are tired of government’s promises not being fulfilled and farmers being compelled to take up the task of fixing roads on behalf of the state.
“For the past four years, farmers have been forced to repair dirt roads themselves to make it possible for sowing farmers to get loads of grain to grain silos, and for cattle farmers to get their livestock to auction points
“They rent road scrapers themselves and pay for the repair of dirt roads themselves. These include the road between Lindley and Doornkloof and [roads] in the Kaallaagte district,” she says.
The inaccessibility of roads also means that farmers can no longer fetch workers from residential areas on a regular basis, which impacts both farmers and day workers who forfeit an income.
“Damage to vehicles due to the potholes in the poor roads costs farmers a lot of money,” Human says. “We are not even talking about the loss of life of the many people who have already died in the Free State in the past few years.”
The most recent farmer death attributed to the dilapidated state of Mzansi’s roads, occurred in Limpopo on the R522 between Vivo and Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. Food For Mzansi previously reported that a local farmer, Gillie Fick, a well-known producer in the cattle farming industry, died early this year due to a pothole in an overall bad road. His death followed that of another farmer, Gert Fourie, who had died in a car accident on the same road.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union lamented afterwards that the Limpopo provincial government has granted an amount of R5 000 to taxi drivers to compensate them for the damages on their vehicles while farmers did not receive anything.
According to the union the R522 is a deadly road.
In Gauteng the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (Afasa) youth leader, Katlego Kgopotse, says farmers in the north of the province – particularly in Winterveld – are experiencing challenges with poor road maintenance.
“Because of uncertain roads, and when it rains, they can’t access their farms. Also, feed suppliers struggle to access the farms when doing deliveries of feed to poultry farmers.
“As Afasa in Gauteng, we plead with the government to assist our farmers in that regard to maintain farm routes.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.