JOHANNESBURG - AGRI SA HAS issued a stern warning that the prevailing drought conditions could collapse rural economies and decimate the country’s entire agricultural industry.
The lobby group said in a drought report yesterday that farmers faced potential foreclosure by banks and that those whose farms would not be attached would be unable to obtain any production credit to plough maize.
Agri Northern Cape deputy president and head of Agri SA disaster management centre Willem Symington said farmers had taken massive financial losses with 37.5percent of rural South Africa affected.
“Yields per year are down and farmers are planting less,” Symington said.
“In animal production we see lessened production due to drought. In the Western Cape we have seen a loss of 25percent in the value of export crops. They are also shedding jobs due to drought. Job losses are around 20 to 25percent in the Northern Cape and the Free State.”
Agri SA said grain and livestock producers had been particularly affected by the unnatural dry weather conditions, below normal rainfall and warm weather.
It said the Ugu District on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, for instance, was highly distressed, with Harding, a small town off the coast, the hardest hit as the local dam has virtually dried up.
The group said several Karoo towns had suffered the same fate as boreholes and dams had dried up.
Symington said while South Africa was one of the most food secure countries in the world the current drought can result in an entire economic downturn.
“As a country, we are not managing climatic disasters very well,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. Drought can change our status as a food secure country.”
In its climate advisory last month, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development warned that drought conditions would persist and water restrictions would remain in place in several provinces.
Agri SA said it had agreed with the department to collaborative efforts, including establishing an inter-sectoral task team representative of the agriculture value chain to assist with efforts to help farmers and farmworkers.
Grain SA chief executive Jannie de Villiers said South Africa had only received close to half the rain it required.
De Villiers said this meant that farmers could be forced to plant only 10 percent more compared to last year.
“The quality of the grains produced are not up to scratch,” De Villiers said.
“We are late, we are worried, we are not in a crisis yet, but have real concerns. We are pleading with the government for an insurance system for these kinds of situations to maintain our food security.”
Agri SA executive director, Omri van Zyl, said they had made recommendations to the government, including the establishment of a National Drought Management Commission to focus on providing the government with an effective and systematic means of assessing drought conditions, and establishing a Disaster Fund.