R5 million allocated after Free State fires

The Free State agriculture department has allocated R5 million for disaster relief after the widespread veldfires in the province, but Free State Agriculture (FSA) is concerned that its members won’t see any of the money.

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According to the department’s deputy director Malcolm Proctor, 402 357ha have been destroyed by fires so far and disaster relief is available for all affected areas in the Free State.But FSA CEO Henk Vermeulen said they had yet to receive any official confirmation of the disaster relief fund. “We’ve only heard rumours of the money. There was no official communication with us from the department’s side and we don’t know how the funds will be allocated,” he noted.

“There are fears the money will be allocated on a racial basis and not on the basis of the damage the victims suffered. Since we were ignored in the process, there’s no way that we can monitor the distribution process.” Vermeulen said Free State farmers are however receiving assistance from all over South Africa. Around 1 000 1,2m bales of top-quality fodder have been dispatched from as far away as Springbok, Delmas and Ermelo, and the first loads have been delivered to Kaallaagte between Paul Roux and Arlington.

"We’ve also received support from various financial institutions and organisations such as the Free State Red Meat Producers’ Organisation,” said Vermeulen.The recent fires underscored the importance of fire protection plans, he said. Meanwhile, ABSA AgriBusiness has organised a disaster fund to assist all farmers affected by veldfires in the country. ABSA’s Ernst Janovsky asked that those people who can assist with animal feed contact their local farmers’ associations.

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Money received will be distributed among Agri Limpopo, Agri North West, Free State Agriculture, Agri Northern Cape, Agri Eastern Cape and Kwanalu. – Annelie Coleman Contributions can be deposited in the ABSA AgriBesigheid Ramphulpfonds 2010 (account number: 92-5241-2925, branch number: 63-20-05).