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DA calls on government to make food security a priority during lockdown

30 March 2020 - 21:16 By Aphiwe Deklerk
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen with submitted his party's input to the president on steps to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen with submitted his party's input to the president on steps to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The DA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to make food security a priority in the agriculture sector during the 21-days lockdown.

South Africa was on Monday on day four of the lockdown, announced by Ramaphosa last week in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. During the lockdown, residents are encouraged to state at home unless they are working in a sector deemed as an essential service or doing an essential task.

DA leader John Steenhuisen on Monday wrote to Ramaphosa to give his party’s input on what they think should be done during the lockdown.

In the party’s input, contained in a document called “the blue book”, Steenhuisen asked that the "the full value chain be exempt from closure in order to ensure stable and constant safe food production".

"Food security must be a priority area in the agricultural sector. We cannot afford any disruptions in production, processing and transport of food. This also relates to affordability of food," reads the document. 

"We need to monitor the current influx of seasonal workers to fruit farms, health and safety measures in packhouses, and possible bottlenecks of imports and exports at our harbours. 

"We need to look at implementing health and safety measures at fresh food markets and livestock auctions, and avoid large gatherings of people. This may include extended hours, rotational buying times, online auctions and timeslots for viewing of live animals."

The party said economic proposals to relieve small businesses should also be extended to the agricultural sector - especially the agri-tourism industry. 

"Whilst the extent of support is for the small businesses that are up to date with payments, we recommend that the agricultural industry be looked at differently. Please consider that many farmers are coming from or still are locked in heavy drought," reads the document.

It said a database of essential imports regarding primary or secondary production needed to be drawn up to assist in import backlogs.

The party also recommended price monitoring for essential agriculture input costs like seeds, chemicals and fertiliser.

"We plan to monitor the full details of all roleplayers in the agricultural value chain, including farming, veterinary and phyto-sanitary services, pest control services, chemical and fertiliser, parts and implement providers.”

Steenhuisen said the submission to Ramaphosa was part of his commitment to the president that his party would support measures to curb the spread of the virus.

"I would like to assure you of the DA’s support for the measures you have announced to curb the infection rate of the virus, as well as safeguard the livelihood of millions of vulnerable South Africans," he said.

"We will support you in these measures, and we will continue to help you seek solutions to the many challenges our country will no doubt face in coming months. You and your government cannot carry this burden alone."