Agriculture sector lobby groups have welcomed the declaration of drought as a national state of disaster and said they expected farmers to benefit from the R6 billion earmarked to address the crisis.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize announced yesterday that he had declared the drought a national state of disaster in terms of Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act. The decision was subsequently published in the Government Gazette.
“The declaration of a state of disaster at any level is not primarily aimed at requesting funding,” Mkhize said. “It is aimed at activating extraordinary measures which may include funding, based on the need and other relevant conditions to address the impact of such a disaster.”
Mkhize stressed that the earmarked R6bn was for all forms of disaster in the country for which provinces and municipalities could apply.
Farming stakeholders welcomed the news, saying the money would go a long way in assisting farmers heavily affected by the drought scourge.
In the worst affected province of Western Cape, farmers have lost more than R14bn due to the drought that has also affected parts of neighbouring Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.
But despite the persistent dry weather conditions, the agriculture sector has remained resilient, growing 17.7percent in 2017. It was also instrumental in helping the South African economy clamber out of a technical recession last year.
AgriSA deputy executive director Christo van der Rheede said: “The agriculture sector is very happy that we will get the necessary assistance from the government, not only in terms of drought relief but also in terms of addressing the infrastructure challenges.”