The announcement last week by the minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development that the entire agricultural value chain – except for alcohol and tobacco – would be exempt from any restrictions, is indeed a feather in the cap for Agri SA and its member organisations. This is according to Agri SA’s chief executive officer, Omri van Zyl.

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The involvement of Agri SA, together with other organisations, in the ministerial task team that recently advised the minister has yielded considerable benefits for the agricultural sector. This again confirms how important it is for farmers, provincial and commodity organisations as well as other role-players in the agricultural value chain to be actively involved in organisations such as Agri SA, as they provide a platform to highlight concerns at the highest levels of government.

Auctions get the green light

Farmers may now go ahead with livestock auctions, as well as auctions for other agricultural products such as wool and cotton. However, these will be subject to strict hygiene measures and a limit of 50 people per auction.

In addition, critical agricultural services such as research, inspections, certification and quality control are also exempted from any restrictions. Wine, as well as all other farm products, may once again be exported.

Vital exports and imports resumed

Agri SA recently also used its contacts to ensure that exports and imports at South African ports are resumed. In the process, Transnet has gone the extra mile by granting cargo ships access to ports to offload heavy farm machinery, as well as chemicals that are essential for the preparation of grain fields in the Western Cape.

A bigger challenge for companies importing farm machinery was that they could not obtain permits to transport abnormal loads. Agri SA contacted the director-general of Transport, after which the office responsible for the permits was declared an essential service. This enabled these companies to deliver imported farm machinery to their clients in time for the harvest season.

Construction of infrastructure on farms approved

Other good news for the sector is that the construction of infrastructure on farms and by agribusinesses has also been approved. The commercial agricultural sector not only provides food locally and internationally, but also employs approximately 850 00 people and earns billions in foreign currency for South Africa.

“Agri SA wishes to thank the minister and director-general for their willingness to listen to our inputs and to introduce these at the highest level on behalf of the sector for incorporation into the regulations, which has been of great benefit to the agricultural sector,” says Van Zyl. “Through co-operation and mutual trust, we have not only protected South Africa’s citizens against the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but have also put plans in motion to protect the economy and guarantee food security for all. – Press release, Agri SA