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Your Covid-19 questions answered

How did the pandemic affect black farmers?

20 May 2022 - 07:00
Black farmers were especially hard hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Black farmers were especially hard hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Strong economic growth and exports in 2020 and 2021 masked the struggles black farmers experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, a study has found.

The study, published in Agrekon Journal, which focuses on the food and agriculture industry, said while farmers across the board were affected by the pandemic, many black farmers faced even tougher condition “because they lack the resources and scale of operation needed to weather the storms”.

“This is resulting in the reinforcement of existing inequalities, along with related poverty and food insecurity,” it added.

The government announced several concessions and relief measures to help struggling farmers during the pandemic but the study found they “have not adequately considered the particular conditions of black farmers and the production and distribution networks they are part of, notably the informal sector of small enterprises that play a key role in food systems but have often been overlooked.”

This was most clearly shown during the initial months of the lockdown.

The study called for a supportive environment that focuses on the parts of the food system important to black farmers.

“This is essential because of the role black farmers can play in the much-needed transformation of the agricultural sector and meeting the livelihoods and food and nutrition security needs of many people in poverty,” it added.

In April 2020, the government announced a R1.2bn Covid-19 relief package for farmers who earn between R50,000 and R1m a year. 

However, the DA called for the aid package to be reconsidered because of the affect on medium-scale farmers who were not eligible for the relief package.

In late 2020, agriculture minister Thoko Didiza announced support for small-scale farmers via the presidential stimulus package.

R1bn was set aside to assist more than 75,000 farmers whose production was disrupted by the pandemic.

“It is appreciated that while the agricultural sector was negatively impacted upon, the subsistence producers and household producers remain the most affected.

“These are producers who use land in the back yards of their homes, gardens in communal areas, all of which are more or less the size of a soccer field,” she said.


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