• Today, Agri SA hosted a press briefing on the severe drought experienced throughout South Africa.

  • There’s growing concern in South Africa about what’s being portrayed as “a national drought disaster”.

  • The agricultural body that represents nearly 28,000 commercial farmers across the country is calling on the government for financial aid to address the debilitating drought wreaking havoc across the country, which has cost the industry billions of rand.

    The industry contributes 2% to the economy, which is projected to grow 0.6% in 2019. It employed about 880,000 people between July and September 2019. Its contribution to the GDP fell from 4.2% in 1996 to 2.4% in 2018, and its value from R50.5bn to R74.2bn over the same period.

    SA is the most food-secure country in Southern Africa, with agriculture viewed as the best vehicle to address poverty and revive rural economies, according to agricultural organisation Agri SA.

    However, the drought is threatening the livelihoods of SA farmers and their workers as there seems to be no end in sight to the dry spell that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of livestock. Farmers were also behind schedule in planting summer crops including maize, soybeans, sunflower, sorghum and peanuts.

    In October, human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu pleaded with South Africans to use water sparingly to avoid the taps running dry, saying a masterplan to address the water crisis will be unveiled soon.

    On Tuesday, Agri SA briefed the media on the impact of drought in the sector and the crisis it has had on the rural economy. The briefing was also addressed by Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers; Red Meat Producers Organisation CEO Gerhard Schutte; Milk Producers’ Organisation CEO Chris van Dijk; and Wildlife Ranching SA’s Adri Kitshoff-Botha, among others.

    Willem Symington, Agri Northern Cape’s disaster management committee chair, said 37.44% of settlements in SA are affected by drought. He said real agriculture output was 9.2% lower in the first half of 2019 than in the corresponding period of 2018.

    “The drought conditions of 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019 have left many maize producers in the North West and parts of the Free State in a very challenging environment,” said Symington. He is not happy that only the Eastern Cape has been declared a disaster area, saying Limpopo and the Western and Northern Capes “should have been declared disaster areas more than a year ago”.

    Symington said the sector needs better early warning systems, speedy disaster declarations, and insurance to cover disasters, among other interventions.

    Schutte said R16bn has been taken out of the red meat industry in the current year, compared to 2018. “The good news is that, in SA we have adaptable animals in terms of climate change, in spite of this drought we are very competitive. We are 30% below the international norm in producer prices,” he said.

    “What also counts in our favour is that we have a well-developed, modern, feedlot industry. [But] we need soft loans, insurance and aid from the government, not only for emerging sector but for commercial sector as well."

    Kitshoff-Botha said that in the Northern Cape there has been an 80% loss of total game numbers, while the Eastern Cape recorded 300,000 mortalities, despite reduced herds. She said it will take about three to five years to replenish stocks.

    Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said the number one priority is for SA to remain a food-secure country. He noted that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in the rural areas as a result of the drought, and that it is difficult to quantify how much the industry has lost to the drought.

    The Agri SA drought disaster fund has disbursed R3.4m to Agri Western Cape; R1.3m to Agri Eastern Cape; R4.2m to Agri Northern Cape; R9.9m to other provinces; R100m for other donations for transport, humanitarian and bore-holes; R19m for cash donations; and R1.5m for diesel donations. 

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  • Farmers across South Africa are warning the government they might not survive the current drought gripping South Africa. 

  • Farmers in southern Africa should from this year, adapt and plant drought-resistant crops, concentrate on short season varieties and rear drought-tolerant livestock breeds as the frequency of droughts intensifies.

  • Farmers in Southern Africa should from this year, adapt and plant drought-resistant crops, concentrate on short season varieties and rear drought-tolerant livestock breeds as the frequency of droughts intensifies.

  • “Countries within the region have experienced failed agricultural seasons back to back.

  • Agri-Northern Cape (Agri-NC) says it is looking forward to the help it will receive from the government to raise almost R688m for drought aid in the province. This, however, has not been granted yet. 

  • AS the “worst drought in living memory” grips large parts of the Eastern Cape, about 1,500 commercial farmers have applied to the government for drought relief in a last-ditch effort to stay afloat.

  • Torrents of water once thundered over the precipice at Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, shrouding the area in mist.

  • There are preliminary indications that southern Africa could face another year of poor rains, which will inevitably lead to lower agricultural output.

  • The deciduous fruit industry body, Hortgro, has been closely monitoring the situation of producers and agricultural workers affected by the prolonged drought.

  •  A severe drought is threatening South Africa's wildlife industry, with game farmers keeping fewer animals and tourists visiting game lodges in smaller numbers.

  • “We are facing a tragedy. This is far beyond a disaster.” Sutherland resident Sybil Visagie doesn’t mince her words. She can’t afford to.

  • Consecutive years of drought, flooding and economic decay have left a record 45 million people in southern Africa facing severe food shortages, aid agencies have said.

  • International aid requested as nearly eight million people in Zimbabwe, or half its population, are declared food insecure.

  • Just under a year ago, Alice Posha fled her home in the middle of the night and then watched as it was swept away by floods. 

  • Last year, droughts devastated staple food crops across the developing world, cutting production by about half in some countries. A stream of reports from Central America, Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the Asia-Pacific region painted a grim picture of suffering and upheaval.

  • Agri SA verwelkom die aankondiging van die droogterampverklaring wat met ’n verdere maand verleng is deur die minister van samewerkende regering en tradisionele sake, dr Dlamini-Zuma. Agri SA het dié versoek aan die minister gerig en is verheug dat sy gehoor daaraan gegee het.

  • Zimbabwe imported agricultural products worth more than US$1bn — half of it maize — last year, despite investing more than US$3bn in “command agriculture”, a controversial programme to ensure food self-sufficiency introduced in 2016.