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Farmers hard hit by KZN floods

A bridge within the farm collapsed due to floods in Hibberdene in the KZN south coast. The farmers suffered millions in loss due to the floods. Picture Supplied.

A bridge within the farm collapsed due to floods in Hibberdene in the KZN south coast. The farmers suffered millions in loss due to the floods. Picture Supplied.

Published Apr 23, 2022


Durban - A sugar cane and macadamia nuts farmer, Peter Richards of Hibberdene on the KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast who suffered damages worth millions due to floods says only relief will rescue them as farms are not insured.

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Richards said over three hectares of sugar cane plantation were washed away when hillsides flipped as a result of heavy rains last week. He said several sections of his 400-plus hectare farm were inaccessible as bridges collapsed.

The cane industry was the most affected in agriculture with SA Canegrowers estimating R222 million in losses across the province. Richards said his farms required major rehabilitation on the hillsides that would cost hundreds of thousands to be able to replant.

“The damages occurred include infrastructure such as roads and bridges within the farm which is key to access the farm. The replanting will not be easy as the roads and land were hugely damaged,” he said.

While Richards suffered millions in damage, he was optimistic that he would bounce back but lamented over neighbouring small farmers who lost everything.

Peter Richards assess damages caused by heavy rains on his farm in Hibberdene. Picture Supplied.

“We have loads of cane that was already harvested but we cannot take it out due to road damage. The small farmers also have their harvest ready for collection but farms are inaccessible. We fear that the cane will get rotten and cause further loss.

“There are also a lot of small cane growers who cannot get their cane out due to road damage. They will not be able to take their cane to the milling and make money. It is worrying and their only hope is promised relief from the government that can revive their business,” said.

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He said his macadamia trees suffered minimal damages as he was busy with harvesting.

Richards said they have submitted their reports detailing all the damages suffered to the Department of Agriculture through KZN Agricultural Union, Kwanalu.

Minister of Agriculture, Land Affairs and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, met with all the agriculture stakeholders this week to discuss how the relief would be dispersed.

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Didiza said a steering committee has been established to facilitate the relief process to assist all the affected farmers. “The committee will be led by our provincial Department of Agriculture, national and representatives from farmers’ organisations. We have not concluded the assessment to determine the needed funds, we will soon approach the treasury once we have established the total damages.

“In terms of priority, the committee will lead us on what should be prioritised on relief. Farmers have raised many issues, including infrastructure, crop damages and land degradation, etc. There are many needs but we have to prioritise which are immediate ones we need to address to allow economic activities.

“From our engagement with farmers, they indicated that the access to farms was a stumbling block, we will have to look at the road infrastructure, and fertilisers for replanting. There are also communal farms which are deep in the countryside that need our urgent assistance,” said Didiza.

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With regard to fears of corruption that have been raised by opposition parties, Didza said they would try as best as they could to ensure there would be no corruption in the implementation of the relief programmes.

Meanwhile, the eThekwini Municipality has announced that preliminary data showed that more than 1 000 businesses located within the city have been impacted, suggesting hundreds of millions of rands in damages.

A report presented by the City’s economic development unit indicated that the most affected sectors of the economy were manufacturing with an estimated damage of R431m, agriculture R12.6m, construction R18m, wholesale and retail R46m, and warehousing and logistics R33m. A further 110 small businesses were impacted with an estimated damage of R20m.