Dodgy roads eroding farmers’ profit

Cattle farmers in rural North West are losing up to 15% liveweight on their weaners from being transported on unmaintained roads.

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Flip le Roux, chairperson of the Wildebeeshoorn farmers union in the Molopo area, said that although farmers are in one of the best beef producing areas in the country, they are less profitable because of the roads. “We lose about R1/kg to R2/kg per weaner at the market because the animals lose weight when they are transported for such long distances on these bad roads.”

The roads surrounding towns like Vergeleë and Bray are all dirt roads and Le Roux said that they are scraped twice a year at most. “The closest tar road is 60km away. When it rains the roads are like rivers. All we ask is that the roads are maintained. You can’t drive without there being damage to your car.”

Heinrich Joubert, a farmer in Vergeleë, said that his bakkie’s suspension broke after just 140 000km. “The manufacturer can’t understand how it is possible. I have to fix my bakkie when it breaks because there are no tow trucks here. But by doing this I lose my warranty. Farming in this region is no game.”

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Le Roux said that some of the big contractors do not want to transport cattle in the area anymore because the roads are so bad. “This makes it difficult and more expensive for the farmers to get their cattle to the market.” He said that some farmers have provided the municipality with diesel for the scrapers, but the roads are still not serviced.

Cor Jansen van Vuuren, president of Agri North West, said that the biggest barrier to fixing the problem was the lack of response from the MEC for roads and transport, Raymond Elisha,. “We can’t get an appointment and all our complaints fall on deaf ears. The farmers’ rates and taxes are paid up in full but they can’t drive on the roads.”

Kudus grazing at the sides of the roads make driving more dangerous. Le Roux said that because the scrapers don’t scrap the whole breadth of the road, the shoulders are getting wider and the grass longer. Wildlife ranchers are also losing out financially because tourists are loath to drive the potholed roads to the lodges. Erich Graupner, owner of Omega wildlife ranch in Molopo, said the game industry is the only industry that brings foreign currency into the region, but even this is going nowhere.

“The Americans want to visit our ranch but they can’t understand why they have to drive roads that are in this condition. “I send people abroad to do marketing for the ranch, but after the tourists have been here once they swear never again because they are gatvol of driving these broken roads for hours on end. “Government does not understand the impact that it has on the whole industry and on the area’s income,” said Graupner.

Lebo Mokgethi, spokesperson for the North West Department of Transport, said obtaining diesel for the scrapers was a problem as the service provider was unreliable. The department is in the process of cancelling this contract. Mokgethi said that the department did have a plan in place to fix the roads and welcomes input from farmers. A road summit will be held on 22 October in Taung. Interested parties can contact 018 388 1252 for more info.