Government allocates R1.2bn to ensure food production during and after Covid-19 outbreak

Agriculture minister Thoko Didiza says R100m will be made available to the Land Bank to help farmers in distress

24 March 2020 - 13:11
By S'thembile Cele
Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza has announced government's plans to ensure food production.
Image: SA Gov via Twitter Agriculture, land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza has announced government's plans to ensure food production.

Minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Thoko Didiza on Tuesday announced a R1.2bn financial package to mitigate the threat Covid-19 poses to food production.

“The department has set aside a package of R1.2bn to address the effects of coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production after the pandemic. The department will soon make the details of this package, with the application channels, available. The department has also availed R100m to the Land Bank to help farmers in distress,” Didiza said.

The minister said exports and imports of critical agricultural commodities would continue unhindered, even during the 21-day lockdown which starts at midnight on Thursday and continues until April 16.

“This is not limited to retailers but applies to the entire food value chain: farm-related operations, agro-processing and food manufacturing, logistics and related services, wholesale and retail services, and all support functions that ensure efficient delivery of the agro-food system.”

Auctions of livestock will also continue, but will take place under strict conditions, including the prohibition of more than 100 people allowed to attend..

“I will be making regular updates on crop estimates to inform the country of our critical commodity supply. To ensure we do not have inflated prices in the sector, food-price monitoring will be conducted on critical food-basket commodities and reports will be given to the nation regularly.”

Didiza warned against panic buying and price gouging by wholesalers, saying it was a “crucial time for the country”.

Meanwhile, minister of environmental affairs, forestry and fisheries Barbara Creecy announced that she would be granting exemptions to the fishing industry.

“Those with fishing permits may need to renew licencing. We are granting a three-month exemption for the renewal of those permits so they do not need to come into offices and interact with staff,” she said, adding that this would be reviewed after three months and only applied to those with existing fishing rights.

She said the fisheries sector was crucial to domestic food rights. Other sectors which would remain in operation included harbour slipping and docking services pertaining to fishing vessels, the clearing of state and commercial forests, fire services and nursery services.

She added that the department was working on collating information on foreigners from high-risk countries who were in the country's 19 national parks.

Creecy said the visitors were being kept in isolation pending engagements with the departments of health and international relations and co-operation.

Services relating to waste management and the disposal of toxic waste in municipalities would continue to operate.

Botanical gardens and the Tshwane Zoo would continue to be serviced, but would remain closed.