Farmers, govt pull together to safeguard food security_1

Farmers and the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries have agreed that in the light of the coronavirus that’s threatening the country’s and the world’s economies, food security in South Africa must not be disrupted, including stock auctions. Since 17 February, Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza conditionally lifted the blanket ban imposed after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease three months ago in the Molemole district in Limpopo. The minister’s decision follows a briefing she received from the technical task team at the weekend. “There are preconditions for the resumption of auctions. Auctions will only be conducted under stringent conditions. All...
Farmers and the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries have agreed that in the light of the coronavirus that’s threatening the country’s and the world’s economies, food security in South Africa must not be disrupted, including stock auctions.

Since 17 February, Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza conditionally lifted the blanket ban imposed after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease three months ago in the Molemole district in Limpopo. The minister’s decision follows a briefing she received from the technical task team at the weekend.

“There are preconditions for the resumption of auctions. Auctions will only be conducted under stringent conditions. All livestock agents must be registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council,” Didiza said at the time.

Farming body TLU SA is busy working on guidelines on how to handle the outbreak of Covid-19 among its members in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a national disaster.

It reacted positively to a meeting it held with the minister on various possible Covid-19 measures.

“We want to emphasise that everyone should keep perspective and not go overboard. The coronavirus has the potential to have an enormous negative impact,” said Louis Meintjes, president of TLU SA. “The danger, however, is that the perception of the possible consequences could cause more damage than the virus itself. The decision already holds far-reaching economic implications and could have an even more significant impact on the sustainability of businesses in future.

“In no way do we want to create the idea that we can ignore the situation and just carry on as normal. Things are not normal and we should act accordingly,” he said.

This week, different role players in the agricultural sector, including farmers’ associations, held discussions with Didiza, who briefed the sector about steps taken to prevent the spread of the virus, as announced by the president. They discussed the way forward, including the need to keep food security going.

The meeting resolved to establish a task team comprising the department and organised agriculture. The task team was expected to convene its first meeting tomorrow, before it gives feedback to stakeholders.

“During the meeting, the minister confirmed that auctions would continue, for the time being, to ensure the livestock industry doesn’t face any further losses after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease knocked the sector earlier this year. The goal is to protect food security and the agricultural economy,” Meintjes said.

“The success of the government’s emergency measures depends on society’s willingness to implement them. Our members should take steps to limit possible further damage of the coronavirus,” he said.

Among the steps TLU SA advised were its members should inform workers of the virus and how it spreads, about personal hygiene, discuss the risks of socialising in big groups over weekends and explain the benefits of voluntary isolation or self-quarantine.

The body further advised farmers to monitor the health of workers and their families and to do long-term planning of food rations with longer shelf lives.

On farm access, it said members should strictly apply the farm protocol for access to farms and should ensure people visiting a farm wear face masks and properly sanitise themselves on arrival.

They must also be alert to criminals using the pretext of coronavirus to get access to farms under false pretences.

“TLU SA will consider additional measures as the situation unfolds. The main priority is to protect human lives, the rest must follow,” Meintjes said.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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