Drought relief extension welcomed, but urgent assistance is now needed - Agri SA
Agri SA has welcomed the announcement by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that the proclamation of drought relief will be extended by a further month, but added that urgent assistance is needed.
"Agri SA made this request earlier to the minister and we are happy that she has heeded the request," Agri SA disaster management head Willem Symington said in a statement.
The summer rainfall season had passed without sufficient rain in most of the regions affected by the devastating drought conditions. The lingering drought had had far-reaching consequences for agriculture and had been catastrophic for local economies in the drought-stricken areas.
In the Western Cape, a lower than normal winter rainfall season could exacerbate the problem. Since the national state of disaster was declared on March 4 and the minister of finance’s budget speech in February, there had been no government intervention to mitigate the consequences of the drought.
On Friday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni issued another notice in the Government Gazette for the immediate provision of unallocated disaster relief funds. However, it was unknown to Agri SA if the R466.4 million referred to was for the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic or drought disaster relief.
Farmers urgently required assistance if their farming operations, workers, and communities and the fragile local economies were to survive. Agri SA was hopeful that some of the funds announced on Friday would be allocated to much needed drought relief, Symington said.
Agri SA also called on government to provide financial assistance to farmers affected by the drought in the form of stock feed, water infrastructure, drills, equipment, upgrading of boreholes, and other interventions that could help to soften the burden of those who were suffering.
Agri SA also asked that a report on drought relief spending in terms of the national disaster be made available. Agri SA and its members had used the funds donated by the private sector and other donations since 2015 to assist many of the affected farming communities.
Agri SA would continue to exert pressure on government for proactive disaster relief through projects and financial support for all affected farmers, farmworkers, and communities, Symington said.