The announcement on Wednesday evening by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development that the entire agricultural value chain would be exempt from any restrictions, except for alcohol and tobacco, is indeed a feather in the cap for Agri SA and its member organisations, says Agri SA’s chief executive officer, Omri van Zyl.
During the past weekend, a lot of work was done behind the scenes to facilitate this breakthrough with inputs from its member organisations, without which this would not have been possible.
The involvement of Agri SA, together with other organisations, in the ministerial task team that recently advised the Minister of Agriculture, has yielded considerable benefits for the agricultural sector. This again confirms how important it is for farmers, provincial and commodity organisations as well as other role players in the agricultural value chain to be actively involved in an organisation such as Agri SA as a platform to highlight their concerns at the highest levels of government.
Farmers may now go ahead with livestock auctions, as well as auctions for other agricultural products such as wool and cotton. However, they will still be subject to strict hygiene measures and a limit of 50 people per auction. In addition, critical agricultural services such as research, inspections, certification, and quality control are also exempted from any restrictions. Wine, as well as all other farm products, may once again be exported.
Agri SA’s team recently also used their contacts to ensure that exports and imports at South African ports are resumed. In the process, Transnet has gone the extra mile by granting cargo ships access to ports to offload heavy farm machinery, as well as chemicals that are essential for the preparation of grain fields in the Western Cape. In this way, the concerns raised by farmers in the Western Cape and Grain SA that the chemicals would not arrive in time were averted.
A bigger challenge for companies importing farm machinery was that they could not obtain permits to transport abnormal loads. Agri SA contacted the Director-General of Transport, after which the office responsible for the permits was declared an essential service. This enabled these companies to deliver imported farm machinery to their clients in time for the harvest season.
Other good news for the sector is that the construction of infrastructure on farms and by agribusinesses has also been approved. The commercial agricultural sector not only provides food to South Africans, our neighbours and the international world but also employs approximately 850 00 people and earns billions in foreign currency for South Africa.
Agri SA hereby wishes to thank the Minister and Director-Generals of Agriculture for their willingness to listen to our inputs and to introduce them at the highest level on behalf of the sector for incorporation into the regulations, which has been of great benefit to the agricultural sector. Through cooperation and mutual trust, we not only protect our citizens against the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic but also put plans in motion to protect the economy and guarantee food security for all.