East Cape relief funds for drought ‘woefully inadequate’

Hungry animals look for anything to graze on in the veld after almost four years of no decent rain in Aberdeen
Hungry animals look for anything to graze on in the veld after almost four years of no decent rain in Aberdeen
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Farmers in the Eastern Cape need R30m a day to keep their animals alive and productive, according to Agri Eastern Cape president Doug Stern.

Speaking on the R643m that the department of rural development and  agrarian reform had requested from national government for drought relief, Stern said this was not enough as about R1.8bn was actually needed by the agricultural sector.  

“The situation is critical because if you look at the livestock situation; look at what we require and if you look at the weather predictions for  the next two months, we need something like R1.8bn to keep these animals in some sort of productive state and keep them alive.

“I know the department wants to spend money on cleaning dams and sinking boreholes but I think all the energy should be focused on keeping animals alive — that’s what should be paramount. Cleaning dams to me is not that important.

“Feed is the most essential thing right now,” Stern said.

DA MPL Retief Odendaal accused the provincial government of not having a comprehensive plan in place to combat the crippling drought.

Odendaal said of the R643m drought assistance that the provincial government had requested from the National Treasury, R455.3m would be for animal feed.

“This is woefully inadequate, with organised agriculture estimating R30m worth of feed will be needed daily to prevent livestock from dying.

“This means the funding requested is but a fraction of what is needed to get farmers through the summer months, with the fodder allocation providing feed for just over 15 days,” Odendaal said.

The projected losses from livestock production has been calculated at R6.4bn, while yields from grain crops in the province are expected to be down 25%.

About 1,440 commercial farmer, 8,700 smallholder farmers and 55,000 subsistence farmers are affected by the drought.

A week ago, rural development and  agrarian reform MEC Nomakhosazana Meth announced that the provincial government had reworked its budget and made R74m available for immediate drought relief in the province’s six districts for all affected farmers.

Odendaal said the department planned on drilling 223 boreholes at a cost of R111.5m.

He said this was more than triple the cost of what could be procured from the private sector.

Stern suggested that government work with co-operatives across the province through a voucher system to distribute feed to struggling farmers.

We’re saying that government should do it through a process of vouchers; go through the co-operatives and allocate a certain amount of vouchers so that there’s no corruption.

This is to keep it simple and corruption-free.

“People don’t understand the predicament that agriculture is under in the province.

“We’ve had absolutely no growth over two summers and we’re now in our third summer.

There is no natural vegetation and we’re going to have to supplement our animals,” Steyn said.

Meth could not be reached for comment while her spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa did not respond to calls or text messages.

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