The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, assured the agricultural industry that the agriculture and food supply sector are essential systems that will remain operational during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Food supply remains functional

“Our food supply system will remain functional during this period, and agricultural production in all its forms will remain uncompromised. This includes all services such as provision of veterinary and advisory services. Live auctions of livestock and the sale of other agricultural commodities will continue, but under the strict conditions as prescribed by the President. Exports and imports of critical agricultural commodities and logistical measures will continue during this lockdown period to ensure global and national food security,” said Minister Didiza.    

She said it is not only limited to retailers but the entire food value chain, from farm related operations, agro-processing and food manufacturing, logistics and related services, wholesale and retail services, to all support functions that ensure efficient delivery of the agro-food system. 

Self-sufficient food production

“As a nation, we boast self-sufficiency in food production, and a part of this year’s supply is yet to be harvested, which promises to be a bumper field crop and citrus harvest. These processes will continue as normal as one of the foundations of South Africa’s food system.”

Minister Didiza said the department set aside a package of R1,2 billion to address the effects of the coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production after the pandemic. Details of this package and how to apply will be made available. The department has also availed R100 million to the Land Bank to assist farmers under distress. 

Operational procedures for the sector

“Together with the industry, we are working on operational procedures for the sector that would ensure adherence to the measures announced by the President. This includes the provision of sanitation to employees within the sector, especially farm workers.

“We urge the food value chain role-players to comply and adhere to strict health regulations to contain and arrest COVID-19 as we strive to supply food to the nation. I appeal to the public not to embark on panic buying, as the President has indicated. The country has enough food supplies. Panic buying will only cause disruptions and inconvenience in the food system. I urge you, fellow citizens, to also be considerate and purchase that which is enough for your needs,” said Minister Didiza. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit