Farmers need help to survive the drought

The devastating drought, coupled with the grave impact that extreme temperatures have on agricultural producers, calls for government support, Grain SA said in a statement.

Farmers need help to survive the drought

South Africa is confronted with a most severe drought crisis, exacerbated by extreme heatwaves, leaving the nation’s grain producers reeling under immense pressure.

With financial strain mounting due to decreased yields and rising production costs, the South African grain industry is urgently calling on government for support and assistance to alleviate the burden on producers.

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According to Derek Mathews, Grain SA chairperson, the sweltering temperatures had caused vastly decreased yields, squeezing profit margins and threatening the viability of entire operations in the grain and oilseed production sector.

He said that many commercial producers were grappling with the prospect of crop failures and financial losses.

The nearly countrywide drought also impacted severely on livestock producers, James Faber, chairman of the South African Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, told Farmer’s Weekly.

For instance, emergency slaughtering’s in the Northern Cape, where Faber farms, increased dramatically as producers were forced to reduce livestock numbers on their land.

“The areas subjected to severe veld fires in 2023 are particularly hard hit. This includes Koopmansfontein and Daniëlskuil. Very little, if any, rain occurred over the districts where the grazing was destroyed, and the situation is made worse by the fact that our growth season expires by 15 April. We find ourselves in a critical situation,” Faber said.

Mathews said: “Grain producers, who form the backbone of the nation’s agriculture sector, are facing an uphill battle as they struggle to cope with the devastating effects of the drought, with some receiving below 50% of their average rainfall in the current season. This impact is also pronounced among developing producers, who often lack the financial resources and infrastructure to withstand such adversity. With their livelihoods hanging in the balance, and no method to mitigate the risk, these producers are struggling to keep their farms afloat amidst dwindling resources and mounting debts.

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“The current conditions highlight the realities of agricultural production and the impact of climatic conditions on food security and -prices on South Africans, but also the Southern African community. Agricultural producers are currently engaging with financiers and agribusiness to ensure that they can resume production in the next season. However, it is clear that a number of producers are in severe distress and will need support to ensure the sustainability of our food production sector.

Tobias Doyer, Grain SA CEO, said: “Immediate [government] action is needed to provide financial assistance through an agricultural disaster fund, access to affordable credit remedies and affordable income insurance, enabling producers to weather the crisis and sustain their livelihoods.”

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