An inter-ministerial committee briefed the media today on details of government’s interventions following President Ramaphosa’s announcement of the 21-day lockdown in South Africa amid the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza also briefed the media on what would happen in the sector.
She said that agriculture and food sector will remain operational and thanked the farmers, producers, farmworkers, and the agribusiness sector for remaining the bedrock of ‘our’ national food system for SA and Southern Africa.
Didiza said that agriculture and food production will remain uncompromised,
This, she said, includes veterinary services and advisory services that will have to continue to support producers.
She said that Livestock Auctions will continue under strict conditions of not more than 100 per gathering.
Logistics and the entire food value chain will also remain functional.
“Export and import of critical agricultural commodities and logistical measures will continue during this lockdown period to ensure global and national food security.
“We have been working with the industry to identify the core elements that need to remain operational and what measures to we take to ensure safe hygiene in all operation.
“As a nation, we boast for being self-sufficient in food production and this year’s supply is yet to be harvested particularly yellow and white maize which promises to be a bumper field crop and citrus harvest also promises to be good,” said the minister.
Didiza said the department will continue working with the farmers to ensure harvesting continues, however, under strict conditions that comply with restrictions that have been announced particularly concerning the numbers of workers in the field and their protection
“I’ll be making regular updates on crop estimates to inform the country on critical commodities supply to ensure we don’t have inflated prices in the sector.
“Price monitoring will also be conducted on critical food basket commodities and reports will be given to the nation on a regular basis,” said the minister.
The minister said her department has also set aside a package of R1.2billion to be made available to ensure that food production continues even post Covid-19.
The department will soon make the details of this package together with the application channels available
“We are working with the land bank and R100 million will be transferred to assist farmers under distress that have loans with the Land Bank and I hope that other financial institutions to ensure that farmers that have loans with them do get supported during this tough period,” said the minister.
The minister said that they are working with the sector to ensure adherence to the measures as announced by the president.
“This includes the provision of sanitizers to the employees as well as running water within the sector especially farmworkers
“We also plead with agri-business to ensure compliance and stick to strict health regulations to arrests this disease.
Lastly, the minister appealed to the public to not panic buy.
“We have sufficient food supplies. It will only cause disruptions. Food security is paramount at this time.
“To wholesalers and retailers do not engage in price hiking at this time,” she said.