South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Monday said the government should take swift action to address crimes in the agricultural sector. REUTERS

CAPE TOWN - South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Monday said the government should take swift action to address crimes in the agricultural sector which cost it more than R7 billion last year.

According to the institute, South Africa’s agricultural sector continued to be threatened by a volatile security situation.

“Agri-SA’s recently released report on crimes affecting farms is a timely call to appreciate the scale of the criminal threat to the farming sector and to take appropriate action,” said IRR project manager Terence Corrigan.

The report,  based on a survey of agriculturalists affiliated to Agri-SA’s provincial bodies, showed that 70 percent of farms had experienced some form of crime in 2017. Stock theft was the most common crime, followed closely by the theft of infrastructure and theft of equipment.

IRR said some 25 percent had experienced robbery, a crime that is frequently associated with violence. The survey also found that a third of respondents claimed an increase in crime over the past three years.

“Agri-SA’s survey is an invaluable attempt to quantify the perilous situation under which farming households exist. This applies to all farming communities, farmers, and their employees, of every race. Too often, voices both in the state and in society, not least the President, have tried to play this down. It deserves to be acknowledged for the very real and debilitating problem it is,” said Corrigan.

Corrigan added that he noted that most farmers did not report all the crimes committed to the authorities. “The results here suggest a sense of alienation and frustration on the part of many farmers, reporting crime would be a pointless exercise, there is nothing that the police could do, and so on.”

The institute further argued that crime directed at farms, whether at property or at people is a major strategic issue for the agricultural sector.

“The IRR has long argued that farm dwellers face an outsized threat,” said Corrigan. “This is backed up by solid analysis. Official data shows that between 2012/13 and 2017/18 there were some 353 farm murders. Agri-SA’s study adds additional weight to this. But less remarked on is what that means for South Africa and the farming economy,” he said, adding that concerns about personal safety and the security of one’s assets would drive people away from the industry, and dissuade others from entering it.

“The impact, particularly on smaller operators, will be corrosive over time. With agriculture’s contribution to the overall national value chain accounting for between 10 percent  and 12 percent of GDP, again, according to the report, this is something that South Africa can ill afford,” Corrigan said.

- African News Agency (ANA)