The Free State agricultural community may have experienced some welcome rain over the past few months, but not a drop of drought relief. The DA is concerned that the Free State provincial government has only allocated R11 million for disaster relief in the next financial year. The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development indicated during a meeting of the Legislature committee responsible for agriculture yesterday that they have received no communication in this regard.
The DA welcomed the R870 839 499.53 disaster relief that was allocated through the Provincial Gazette (No 101, 24 January 2020) for disaster drought relief from various provincial and national government departments to the Free State Province. So far, however, none of this has reached the agricultural sector who have pressing needs. Besides the drought, that has drained the financial reserves and resources of many farmers, we will soon be entering the devastating winter fire season.
The DA requested the Premier to declare the Free State a provincial disaster area in 2019 which was done, and although funding has only been identified, none has been forthcoming.
It must be borne in mind that the agricultural sector in the Free State has been badly affected by the drought and that the effects of this are felt even after rains have come. The economic impact of drought on farmers has serious implications for the province’s rural economies and employment.
Drought disaster relief for the agricultural sector, that supplies our country’s food under difficult conditions, requires immediate action and should be planned for way in advance. Our agricultural sector bears the negative burdens of climate change and political, economic, social and rural security threats. Many farmers have had to sell capital assets required for production in order to survive, while others and their employees remain destitute.
Even though the coronavirus will consume many financial resources, a healthy agricultural sector is a prerequisite for a healthy population. Our farmers (commercial, emerging and subsistence) require as much support as the victims of this epidemic.