North West premier stalls on drought relief

The North West province has gone an entire season without rain, but financial support remains out of reach, as Premier Thandi Modise is yet to declare it a drought disaster area.

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Financing will become a problem if the premier does not declare it a disaster area, according to Cor Janse van Vuuren, president of Agri North West. “At the moment, farmers won’t be able to pay production debt of about R300 million, which is owed to Senwes, NWK and Suidwes. An additional R1,5 billion will be needed to fund the coming season’s production loans, as farmers have already used their reserve funding to plant the past season,” he said.

Kosie van Zyl, disaster advisor to Agri SA, said the financial impact of the drought was estimated at about R2 billion. “Crop damage of between 40% and 50% has been recorded,” he added. Janse van Vuuren said the organisation had made five appointments to discuss the issue with Modise, and each time the meeting had been cancelled at the last minute. “We are waiting anxiously for her to sign the documents to declare the area a drought disaster area.

“Farmers need the financial support and are currently placing all their property at risk by using it as collateral for the next crop. Yes, they do it for profit, but they are also doing it for the country’s food security.” Agri SA, Agri North West, Afasa and Senwes met with senior officials of Land Bank last month to discuss the possibility of lowering the interest rates on production loans for drought- stricken farms, with the help of the Industrial Development Corporation.

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“We are also trying to secure longer terms of repayment as farmers will need years to recover from this drought,” said Janse van Vuuren. Meanwhile, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister of agriculture, fishery and forestry, has announced that R200 million would be made available to assist farmers in the North West. However it is not yet clear when farmers would be able to access these funds.

* Farmer’s Weekly was unable to reach advocate Okgabile Dibetso-Bodibe, chief state law advisor to the premier, at the time of being published.