Premier must urgently throw disaster lifeline to NC farmers

Issued by Reinette Liebenberg, MPL – DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform
18 Jan 2023 in News

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbites in English & Afrikaans from Reinette Liebenberg, MPL. 

The DA has submitted an urgent request to the Premier to immediately declare the irrigation belt in the Northern Cape a provincial disaster area. The clock is ticking and failure to do so will swiftly destroy harvests, devastate already beleaguered farmers and their farming enterprises, as well as place food security in jeopardy.

Scorching temperatures coupled with stage six loadshedding threatens to wipe out crops within a matter of days, due to farmers being unable to meet the watering needs of their farmland.

Farmers from across the province, including but not limited to Colesberg, Douglas, Prieska, Hartswater and Onseepkans, are in serious trouble. They are in need of solutions today if they are to continue contributing to the food basket tomorrow.

Even more so, considering that this is the quintuple blow which they have had to negotiate within the past year, including drought conditions which persist in certain parts of the province, veld fires, locust plagues and floods. Further damage, on top of the losses already suffered due to these other disaster, will make it increasingly difficult to secure financial assistance from banks.

The declaration is therefore urgently needed to avail funds to help meet the immediate needs of farmers and prevent their farmland from turning into a wasteland. In the short term, this should allow for outstanding financial assistance and feed to deal with the impacts of the past disasters and also for immediate rebates on electricity.

More importantly, this must very quickly open the way for high priority engagements with Eskom, municipalities and Nersa, to enable revised loadshedding schedules that will support farmers. Ensuring that watering hours of farmers are minimally affected by power cuts, could go a long way towards saving their produce. More so, however, Northern Cape farmers should be declared an essential service and exempted from loadshedding hours.

The DA has tried to make contact with the MEC of Agriculture to impress upon her the seriousness of the situation and we have further issued our request to the Office of the Premier. I have also requested that the legislature urgently reconvenes in order for the portfolio committee on agriculture to meet with the Department of Agriculture, COGHSTA and the Premier’s Office, in response to this impending disaster.

Agriculture is the only sector that feeds the nation and the second largest key driver of economic growth in the Northern Cape. It is of utmost importance that a disaster declaration, together with contingency plans, are announced before it is too late to save our farmers and safeguard food security.