Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz
It is crucial to assist small-scale farmers that were already struggling prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is important to also continuously assess the impact of the pandemic on established farmers to ensure that national food security is maintained at all times.
While it is early to make a definitive assessment, one can argue that South Africa’s agricultural sector has been relatively more insulated from the Covid-19 pandemic than other sectors of the economy that are on complete lockdown. The food production value chains are operational, albeit not at optimal levels, as take-aways, ready-made meals, meal deliveries and the informal traders selling cooked food along the sidewalks are still prohibited.
The sub-sectors that are still in complete lockdown from a trading perspective include wool and mohair, cotton, tobacco, wine and alcoholic beverages, and floriculture (flowers). The harvesting and storage of primary agricultural produce to prevent wastage is permitted under strict health regulations. With that said, without trading, the farming business that has been adversely affected by lockdown restrictions could experience short-term cash flow challenges.