South Africans are calling for an end to the country’s state of disaster and the agricultural sector has joined in. As today marks exactly two years since the drastic step around Covid-19 was taken, industry leaders have taken the chance to urge President Cyril Ramaphosa and his National Command Council to end it for good.
Especially those in the events industry reckon that it is time to lift disaster-related restrictions. They say the prohibition of large-scale events has weighed heavily on the industry and the agricultural sector in general. To this day, agricultural shows are only allowed to host 2 000 people in the outdoors.
Bring back agricultural shows
Agri-Expo operations manager Breyton Milford says they will be thankful for a complete lift. Agri-Expo hosts a number of leading annual events, including Agri-Expo Livestock and the South African Cheese Festival.
“This will give our… rural agricultural shows the opportunity to present shows more economically and hopefully return to their full capacity. Other large events and exhibition opportunities can also be considered again, should the national state of disaster be lifted.”
To comply with the current regulations and keep activities alive, Agri Expo has had to adjust its flagship event – the SA Cheese Festival – which normally hosts thousands of exhibitors who need exposure and access to new market opportunities.
“This year, we host smaller pop-up cheese festivals at different venues, in line with the current regulations,” says Milford, adding that many agricultural events have had to be cancelled over the past two years.
“This had a huge impact on jobs, market access for small entrepreneurs as well as new technology to the industry,” Milford explains. “We hope that the national state of disaster will be lifted for us to continue with agricultural events and exhibitions to help grow the economy and the sector.”
Also returning from a two-year break due to Covid-19 restrictions, is the Nampo Harvest Day, an annual event hosted by Grain SA and is set to return to Bothaville in the Free State in May.
At their annual congress earlier this mont, Grain SA chairperson Derek Mathews said the return of the Nampo day could not have come at a better time, as a major event on the grain industry’s calendar.
Dairy and alcohol industry weigh in
Milk Producers’ Organisation chairperson Colin Wellbeloved says they are in full support of the state of disaster being lifted so their members can once again engage in events and industry activities, and gain access to new markets.
“The main aim of the dairy industry will be to return to the growth path that we were on pre pandemic, which was 3-5% per year over a long period.”
Wellbeloved says the average growth of the past eight years has been in line with the country’s gross domestic product. “The reality is that our local market seems saturated under these circumstances so we will need to find new markets which, given our competitiveness as being among the cheapest producers in the world, is highly achievable.”
Meanwhile, Vinpro spokesperson Wanda Augustyn says they have recognised that alcohol restrictions are not sustainable, and therefore balanced measures need to be considered. She adds that, should the state of disaster be lifted, the industry will ensure they support and commit to lawful alcohol trading.
“The liquor industry is therefore busy with a formal submission to government on various issues such as continued observation of health and safety protocols that support Covid-19 protocols.
“The liquor industry is also committed to actively support the vaccine rollout on Covid-19, local tourism and local small businesses and investing in alcohol harm reductions programmes while promoting responsible alcohol consumption,” she points out.
According to Augustyn, the Covid-19 impact on livelihoods in the liquor value chain has been significant with approximately 200 000 jobs lost during the last three bans, the closure of businesses, loss of revenue and a decline in investment.
*This story has been updated to correct the statement on the impact that Covid-19 had on the liquor industry.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.