Organised agriculture in the country say they have also been hardest hit by the national lockdown. Farmers unions say although their members have lost a fortune during the national lockdown, they anticipate to complete harvesting on time, despite the challenges they are facing.
Grain SA says there should be no panic, as there is sufficient food for the country.
Agriculture is one of the country’s key economic pillars. However, since the announcement of the national lockdown, the sector was declared an essential service. Now, the harvesting season in the sector, particularly for maize, sunflower and peanuts, amongst others, is fast approaching.
However, farmers are concerned on how to implement social distancing regulations on seasonal workers, during harvesting.
Pierre Vercueil, President for Agriculture SA says, “We have a very good maize crop coming. I think it will start by the end May. So, there is a big preparation at the moment for the harvesting season and everybody is talking to each other (about) how are we going to keep everybody safe this harvesting season when we deliver the product to the markets,” questions Vercueil.
Grain SA says the national lockdown has impacted negatively on farmers.
Derick Matthews, Chairman for Grain SA, says the lockdown will also adversely affect seasonal workers in the agricultural sector.
“I think grain farmers uses seasonal labour to clean up the fields after the harvesting season. They will think twice about what the risks are of having somebody get sick on the farm. So, it is a risk to the farmer because he cannot get the work done and more risk to the community that they won’t have that income,” says Matthews.
Meanwhile, African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) is worried that their members cannot access critical service providers during harvesting season, under national lockdown conditions.
Gideon Morule, Chairsperso of Afasa in the North West, says, “The problem is that not everywhere it is open. Some of the places where we need help, so that we can continue with our farming operations, are also closed. If I give you a typical example, is that I had a problem with hydraulic pipe of a tractor. When I approached people who work with it (sic), they were closed.”
Some of the seasonal farm workers say they will face a bleak winter season as they will not be able to earn an income during this period.
The unions say despite challenges faced by farmers, they are optimistic that they will complete their harvesting season on time.
Below is a graph of the lockdown economic measures: