Organised agriculture (Agri SA, Agbiz, Grain SA, TLU SA) currently serves on the Department of Agriculture’s COVID-19 task team. In countries such as China, Italy, the United States and others, large numbers of people have been infected, with the death toll in those countries having increased dramatically. In South Africa, the number of cases increase daily. This is a cause for serious concern. However, as a country we cannot ignore the implications of this virus and we must comply strictly with the lockdown measures.
Essential goods and services
Essential goods such as all food, cleaning and hygiene products, medical and hospital supplies, fuel and necessities such as airtime, water and electricity are excluded. This also includes a comprehensive range of services that are essential to ensure that all the necessary products are made available to the market.
Concerning agriculture, it includes services and products on the input side of food production and the production of food as such, as well as the storage, processing, packaging, distribution and sale of food products. However, agriculture has an enormous responsibility to ensure that the necessary precautionary measures are in place for all processes relating to the provision of food to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Interaction with government
In Agri SA’s daily interaction with the Department and Ministry of Agriculture, it discusses all the existing and potential problems that the sector experiences concerning food production. The minister then refers these problems to the National COVID-19 Operational and Intelligence Task Team (NATJOINTS).
After our inputs, the regulations in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act 57 of 2002), which were amended to include food production as an essential service, was further adjusted. The harvesting and storage of all farm products (wine, tobacco, wool, mohair, etc.) are now included in the definition of food as an essential product.
Responsibility of agricultural sector
The agricultural sector has a massive responsibility to apply all precautionary measures necessary to prevent this deadly virus from spreading further. Make sure that all workers wear masks and gloves. Comply strictly with social distancing rules in the work and transport environments. Monitor your workers and act promptly when someone shows any symptoms of having contracted the virus.
Essentially the request for self-regulation of the disaster implies that organised agriculture provides assurance to the South African population that it will continue providing food for our nation in a responsible manner.
What Agri SA has in place
We have distributed the movement template with our logo to our members which they can use with their own logos to comply with the movement permit requirements. In the Northern Cape, for example, the provincial police structures have formally endorsed our logos and the assurance that comes with it.
We have set up a command centre that will focus on daily updates, scenario planning, commodity issues, as well as provincial and corporate issues experienced in the implementation of the lockdown. Issues that are monitored and discussed includes port infrastructure updates, safety, labour, transport protocols, as well as import and export protocols, to name a few.
Communication to our members are essential as many rules in the regulations are applied differently in different provinces. These we manage through our members as the range of issues differ substantially.
There has been much confusion regarding the registration of entities with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) – the position currently is that companies can register on the database, but it is not covered in the regulations and not compulsory. –Press release, Agri SA