Farming sector to get more financial help amid Covid-19 outbreak
Agriculture minister Thoko Didiza says the agriculture and food supply sector will remain operational during the lockdown
The department of agriculture has set aside a package of R1.2bn to address effects of the coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production after the pandemic.
Speaking during a news conference on Tuesday, agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza said the department would make the details of this package available in the coming days, together with the application channels available. The department has also availed R100m to the Land Bank to assist farmers under distress.
The coronavirus has left the global economy reeling and stocks plummeting amid fears of a jobs bloodbath. The pandemic has also led to a decline in Asia’s agriculture demand and falling agricultural commodity prices.
In a bid to stop the spread of the virus, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown which will come into effect on Thursday midnight.
Didiza said while several businesses will be affected, the agriculture and food supply sector will remain operational during the lockdown.
“Our food supply system will remain functional during this period. Agricultural production in all its forms will remain uncompromised,” the minister said.
This includes all services including provision of veterinary and advisory services. Live auctions of livestock and sale of other agricultural commodities will continue but under the strict conditions a prescribed by the president, Didiza said.
She said exports and imports of critical agriculture commodities and the logistical measures will continue during the lockdown period to ensure global and national food security. This is not only limited to retailers but the entire food value chain, from farm related operations, agro-processing and food manufacturing, logistics and related services, wholesale and retail services, and all support functions that ensure efficient delivery of the agro-food system.
“As a nation, we boast for being self-sufficient in food production, and a part of this year’s supply is yet to be harvested — which promises to be a bumper field crop and citrus harvest — and these processes will continue as normal as a foundation of SA's food system. I will be making regular updates on crop estimates to inform the country of our critical commodity supply,” Didiza said.
Food price monitoring will be conducted on critical food basket commodities and reports will be given to the nation on regular bases.
“This will be to ensure that we do not have inflated prices in the sector,” Didiza said.
“I appeal to the public not to embark on panic buying, as the president has indicated. The country has sufficient food supplies. Panic buying will only cause disruptions and inconvenience in the food system.
“I urge you, fellow citizens, to also be considerate and purchase that which is sufficient for your needs. To wholesalers and retailers, we urge you not to engage in price gouging, at such a crucial time for the country. You have an important role to play in the supply of food, and the fight against Covid-19.”
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