Big agricultural events canned over Covid-19
Several major agricultural events including the Royal Show, Bloem Show and Nampo Harvest Day have been cancelled or postponed due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
In the livestock sector, farmers and co-operations are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their farming communities ahead of the upcoming shearing season.
The season will see teams of travelling shearers move from farm to farm to service each region.
According to the OVK livestock division in the Eastern Cape, shearer teams and transporters have been equipped with a special hand disinfectant from Evolac, and new structures are in place to share official information regarding the virus with all employees in Afrikaans, English, Sesotho and isiXhosa.
Teams that are not working now have been sent home, while contact between working teams and farms has been limited to a bare minimum.
The shearers have also been briefed on what actions to take when any health compromise is suspected, the OVK statement reads.
The livestock sector has had some preparation following the foot and mouth disease crises of the past months.
To circumvent the ban on all live gatherings, many auctions were held online to save the industry.
With the new restrictions on public events due to the coronavirus, the same concept will be applied to continue trading.
Red Meat Producers’ Organisation CEO Gerhard Schutte said the overall meat producers’ market had seen “no disturbances yet”.
However, “if the Covid-19 pandemic impacts negatively on the economy, producer prices can be negatively affected because we consume 96% of red meat production locally”.
Dr Requier Wait, of Agri SA, agrees, saying Covid-19’s shorter-term economic consequences include falling demand for airline and tourism services, disruptions to supply chains and global food systems, while in the long term export-dependent commodities may face lower demand from markets.
For now, though, “SA remains a net exporter of agricultural products and domestic food security is still robust”.
Citrus and stone fruit growers say preparations for the upcoming season are in full swing, despite uncertainty.
“If the current global travel restrictions are extended to restrict SA’s export market, it could be detrimental to our industry,” Wentzel Lombard, of the Dwarsfontein stone fruit farm in the Langkloof valley, said.
“We’ll have a global markets’ worth of fruit on our hands with nowhere to send it.
“We are right in the middle of our packing season now, with the coolers stacked to the brim with fruits for export.”
According to Hannes de Waal from the Sundays River Citrus Company (SRCC), wholesale markets in the northern hemisphere have ground to a halt because of the widespread quarantine requirements.
However, in the retail sector the citrus industry is struggling to keep up with demand.
“Fresh produce, but especially citrus, is in high demand as people intend to build strong immune systems and stay healthy.
“This is good news for SA producers.
“As long as SA adheres to the precautions and there are no uncontrolled outbreaks, the citrus industry will continue on an upward curve.”
Food production remained a critical part of survival, and the Covid-19 crisis may even create opportunity within the SA food production industry, Proudly SA CEO Eustace Mashimbye said.
SA can be self-sustainable when it comes to much of its food production, as SA manufacturers have the capacity to meet current import levels.
“SA imports about 30% of the poultry it consumes, for example, but local poultry farmers could meet 100% of consumption and create more jobs if this market share — currently in the hands of importers — was back with local producers,” Mashimbye said.