The Free State province is the province that has been most affected by drought. This is according to Dr Frikkie Maré of the University of the Free State’s Department of Agriculture at a round table discussion on agriculture held in Bloemfontein. The Free State, along with Eastern Cape and Western Cape among others, is considered a disaster area.
The discussion was held by the Department of Economic Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) for various stakeholders to discuss challenges and solutions for the industry.
Maré stated that the recent drought has adversely affected local farmers who are struggling to make ends meet. “We came out of a devastating drought. There are commercial farmers who go to bed hungry in the evenings. Their children are not at school anymore because they cannot afford school fees. That is what is happening in our province,” he explained.
MEC of Finance, Elzabe Rockman, announced during the mid-term budget speech last week that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development would receive R13.5 million in drought relief. The department will also receive R10.3 million towards the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and Letsema Project grants.
Maré advocated state assistance for commercial as well as small scale farmers. “Drought relief is not only about giving feed to animals. It is also about helping them to manage their situation, the natural resources that they have and the number of animals they may have to sell,” said Maré.
He also noted the need for lower taxes and crop insurance as possible solutions for the crisis that farmers currently are facing after the natural disaster.