Since the World Health Organisation confirmed the outbreak of the COVID-19 as a global pandemic, the South African national government has been putting in place a range of regulations and directives to curb the spread of the virus effectively.
The last one, after the global crisis deepened, was the nationwide 21- day lockdown until midnight April 16th.
Agri SA embraced the drastic national measures to mitigate activities related to COVID-19 and the spread of the disease in South Africa.
The farmers of South Africa will support our people and our country in these times of need and turbulence,” said Pierre Vercueil, Agri SA’s president, in a video message to the member farmers.

Here’s a roundup on COVID-19 impacts on Agri SA member farmers’ activity.

21-day lockdown’ impacts on the farming sector

All farming activities that are not food production, processing or distribution or harvesting and storage of primary agricultural products to prevent wastage, are excluded from the 21-day lockdown. The initial implementation of regulations was restrictive, and farmer’s daily activities were interrupted as each province implemented the rules differently.
The regulations were amended, and more clarity has been brought forward; therefore, most agricultural activities are running smoothly.

Farmers’ Health: Worries and Measures Adopted by Agri SA

The most significant impacts COVID-19 bring is as this virus hits the farms and farms will be forced to close due to the outbreak.
As a farmers’ organisation, Agri SA has contingency plans in place and advise its producers regularly on workplace hygiene and what to do when you suspect a worker has the virus.

Agri SA Infographic “What to do if you suspect a COVID-19 case.”

Agri SA Farmers’ Needs to Address COVID-19 Challenges

The main challenge that Agri SA member farmers are currently facing is the consistency of the implementation of the regulations as agriculture is exempted from the 21-day lockdown. Farmers should follow the rules as published by various ministerial departments, make sure that strict hygiene measures are in place in the workplace, practice social distancing, have hand sanitizer available etc. If a farmer encounters a problem, it would be advisable to contact his/her farmer or provincial union who can provide clarity on the regulation.

Agri SA supports its farming community

Agri SA’s mission is to inform its producers and various role-players in the agricultural value chain through its members about correct and verified information on how to proceed with daily agricultural activities which ultimately ensures food security.
Analysing regulations and providing correct feedback to farmers is essential.
To this extent, Agri SA schedules weekly meetings with each provincial head as well as corporate representatives to receive feedback on problems farmers are experiencing and provide feedback on what Agri SA is busy with as it is engaging with the national government.

Government’s actions for farmers under COVID-19 emergency conditions

The Department of Agriculture has ring-fenced R1.2 billion for assistance to mainly targeting financially distressed small-scale farmers as a result of COVID-19. Enclosed is a media statement by the Department of Agriculture online the criteria and requirements one can apply for this relief. The government can also widen the definition of essential services and products to provide for the export of certain agricultural products.

Food production value chains’ measures

Each industry role-player is required to develop contingency plans to ensure that they adhere to the regulations as published by various ministerial departments. The critical role Agri SA is playing is to ensure that the correct information and the interpretation of rules are channelled to each agricultural role-player. It is week 2 of the lockdown and most producers, and industry role-players are continuing with business as usual. It is crucial agriculture is protected, and those producers and those in the value chain adhere to the measures put in place by the government as well as those by the world health organisation to effectively curb the spread of the virus while ensuring food security.

Look at the message from Agri SA’s President on agricultural activities amid COVID-19 and SA’s 21-day lockdown.