National Assembly passes motion to declare drought a national disaster

The drought that has been ravaging large parts of South Africa and which has placed many farmers at risk of financial distress, could soon be declared a national disaster, after the National Assembly agreed to adopt a motion posed by DA MP Annette Steyn.

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Speaking to Farmer’s Weekly, Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers said the declaration now empowers the state to take steps it wasn’t able to before.

The minister of agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana, would now be able to submit a budget for the provision of aid to drought affected farmers, said De Villiers.

If the initial R400 million that was earmarked by Treasury to respond to the drought was used to assist maize farmers, then only 3% of those farmers could be assisted.

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“If you take into account that South Africa plants 2,5 million hectares maize, and that input costs amount to around R8 500/ha, then the total cost to cover maize farmers alone amounts to R21,5 billion,” said De Villiers.

“We maintain that farmers do not necessarily need cash, but only guarantees that extend their loan obligations. We are however positive. We agree with the government’s assessment. A switch has been flipped, and the engine has been started. We look forward to the fact that bigger sums of assistance money can now be released.”