Urgent action was needed to avoid job losses in the agricultural sector following the inclement weather that resulted in floods that destroyed thousands of homes in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
URGENT action was needed to avoid job losses in the agricultural sector following the inclement weather that resulted in floods that destroyed thousands of homes, infrastructure and killed more than 400 people in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape, Agri SA said.
This as the Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey data for the forth quarter, 2021 showed that the sector had already seen a decline in job numbers in Limpopo at -9 percent, KZN at -6 percent, and the Western Cape at -0.1 percent year-on-year. These were overshadowed by gains in employment in other provinces. Hence, the overall primary agriculture employment increased by 7.1 percent in this period.
The sector was also coming from what the broader industry called a temporary blip as sector figures surprised on the downside, with a 13.6 percent quarter-on-quarter (seasonally adjusted) contraction in the third quarter of 2021.
The disaster also comes as farmers battle high input costs such as fuel, fertiliser and higher inflation as well as a rapidly deteriorating road infrastructure.
Andrea Campher, Agri SA’s risk and disaster manager, said on Wednesday that the agricultural organisation was deeply saddened by the recent flooding in KZN and other parts of the country.
“The loss of life and property has caused enormous pain and suffering, and we extend our condolences to those who have lost loved ones. Agri SA welcomes the reclassification of the previously declared provincial disaster as a national disaster due to the impact of severe weather events. This will help free up much needed resources to help address the extensive damage to infrastructure,” Campher said.
Agri SA and its provincial affiliation, Kwanalu, a KZN agriculture union, and affected commodity groupings would assist the government wherever they could to help make sure that the critically important Durban port was able to function again as soon as possible. Backlogs had already developed proving particularly serious for the export of perishable agricultural products, which needed to be properly stored and transported.
Campher said the situation was very serious and was going to require urgent and focused action to make sure farmers were able to get their product to market.
“The government, therefore, needs to prioritise road repair and access to a functioning port as top priorities to limit supply chain disruptions. If there are any unnecessary delays in this regard, then it will have a knock-on effect that could lead to job losses and possible shortages of agricultural products.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Funke, the chief executive of SA Canegrowers said on Wednesday the KZN floods had led to cane growers’ losses standing at R222.9 million.
“By yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, just over 300 growers had responded to the survey and reported that 2516.65 hectares of cane had extensive crop and root damage, therefore requiring the total replanting of these fields to bring them back into production. This damage comes to an estimated R194.9 million. Farm infrastructure to the value of R27.9 million has also been destroyed bringing the total losses to R222.9 million,” it said.