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February 01, 2011

South Africa to offer limited assistance to flood-affected farmers

by Giordano Stolley

Recent floods caused about R1-billion in lost agricultural production, and another R1-billion in damage to farm infrastructure, AgriSA president Johannes Möller said on January 25.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the farmers' body in Pretoria, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the government would seek to help farmers, but that "there will not be any financial compensation."

As soon as government had better figures it would announce further details of the package it expected to roll out.

With the rainy season expected to continue until March she expected more flooding.

"The government is committed to assisting farmers so that they can become productive again as soon as possible," she said.

No farmers would receive cash payments, but that assistance would be in the form of replacing infrastructure, implements, seeds and speaking to financial institution with the aim of persuading them to extend the period or repayment that indebted farmers might have.

Joemat-Pettersson welcomed organised agriculture's role in forming a panel of experts that would advise and help the government when it rendered assistance to the agriculture sector.

President of the National African Farmers Union of South Africa, Joe Gondo, said the agreement reached between the unions and the ministry would also see smaller farmers getting back on their feet after the floods.
He expressed concern that the floods would result in increased food prices in the near future. It was also a concern that much of the water had simply ended up as run-off and could not be stored for future use.

It was a sentiment echoed by Transvaal Agriculture Union deputy president Louis Meintjes, who said: "We have been on record that they should look at the long term weather pattern forecast models that show that South Africa will have the same amount of rain but over a much shorter time span."

He said rain data from the past three years had backed up these projections.

"We really need to rethink our whole policy on storage of water. We need more dams. Look at the amount of water that's gone into the sea."

He said his union was concerned at local municipalities becoming involved in the roll out of any government assistance because of local authorities' lack of capacity.

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