Durban - Amid crippling droughts and uncertainty over land expropriation, stock theft has emerged as another serious threat to the agricultural industry.
Data from the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum (NSPF) shows farmers lost more than R2 billion through stock theft over a one-year period between 2018 and 2019.
KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the Eastern Cape were listed as the top three provinces where it is rife.
A report released by the forum this week showed that cattle headed the list in KZN, followed by sheep and goats.
The data shows that at least 15000 head of cattle, 500 sheep and 12000 goats, with a combined value of R165million, were stolen in KZN alone.
Most cases of stock theft were reported in the Midlands.
Other areas included Bergville, Amangwe, Ntabamhlophe, Dannhauser and Utrecht.
NSPF chairperson Willie Clack said nationally, the number of animals stolen had increased in all provinces.
“The provinces with the highest increases are Eastern Cape, followed by KZN and Free State.
“In Mpumalanga there is an increase in sheep theft and in North West a serious increase in the theft of goats.
“The SAPS National Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit identified 30 stations all over the country that need serious attention as they are regarded as national ‘hot spot’ stations,” said Clack.
Emerging farmers who could not afford security were most affected and some had to leave the industry, he said.
Enoch Dlalisa, secretary-general of Amangwane Farmers’ Association in Bergville, said stock theft in his area was a daily occurrence. Over the past year, farmers had lost more than 1000 cattle and goats to theft.
“It’s out of control here and thieves take whatever they want. They come heavily armed, riding horses. They cut all the fences on our farms and we suspect that our stock is taken to nearby countries like Lesotho.”
Dlalisa said in May, thieves stole more than 100 cows from his neighbour in broad daylight, and there was nothing they could do to stop it from happening.
“We do not have back-up. We are pleading with the government to intervene because we cannot afford private security; most of our members are emerging farmers,” he said.
Thubelihle Zondi, African Farmers’ Association of SA chairperson, said stock theft hindered transformation because it affected both emerging and commercial farmers. “We have received over 250 cases from our members alone. This disturbs our transformation efforts. It is demoralising to learn that people lose their stock through theft,” said Zondi.
Graham Armstrong, project manager at the Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative, said stock theft was an economic threat and some farmers could not afford to stay afloat.
“This affects everyone, whether emerging or well-established farmers. We spend a great deal of money on security. Some farmers have given up, because if you lose 70% of your stock, how are you going to come back? We encourage members to strengthen their relationship with the surrounding community,” he said.
Mack Makhathini, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it was concerned by the increase in stock theft in the province. “While the department has in recent years been able to intensify efforts to curb any rapid increase in stock theft by rolling out comprehensive animal branding programmes, it is clear that more still needs to be done.”
He said the department’s veterinary services component was hard at work in various districts, assisting communal farmers to brand their livestock and to obtain authentication permits.