Image via: flickr
Image via: flickr
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza announced on Tuesday 24 March, that the agriculture and food supply sector will remain fully operational during the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa.
On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa implemented a nationwide lockdown, spanning over 21 days to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Ramaphosa said that for the next 21 days, all South Africans, young and old, are expected to remain in their homes and only leave absolute essentials like food, medication or social grants.
South Africa’s next question is, will supermarkets remain open, will the coronavirus pandemic have an effect on our supply?
Although several businesses will be affected by the coronavirus lockdown, the agriculture and food supply sector is one of the essential systems for livelihood and therefore, will remain operational.
“Our food supply system will remain functional during this period. Agricultural production in all its forms will remain uncompromised,” said Didiza.
This includes the following services:
“This is not only limited to retailers but the entire food value chain, from farm-related operations, agro-processing and food manufacturing, logistics and related services, wholesale and retail services, and all support functions that ensure efficient delivery of the agro-food system,” said Didiza.
As a nation, we boast for being self-sufficient in food production, and a part of this year’s supply is yet to be harvested — which promises to be a bumper field crop and citrus harvest — and these processes will continue as normal as a foundation of South Africa’s food system.
“I will be making regular updates on crop estimates to inform the country of our critical commodity supply. To ensure that we do not have inflated prices in the sector. Food price monitoring will be conducted on critical food basket commodities and reports will be given to the nation on a regular basis,” said Didiza.
The department has set aside a package of R1.2 billion to address effects of the coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production post the pandemic.
The department soon will make the details of this package together with the application channels available. The department has also availed R100 million to the Land Bank to assist farmers in distress.
“Together with the industry, we are working on sector operational procedures that would ensure adherence to the measures announced by the president, this includes the provision of sanitation to employees within the sector especially farmworkers,” she said.
“We urge the food value chain role players to strictly comply and adhere to strict health regulations to contain and arrest COVID-19 [coronavirus] as we strive to supply food to the nation,” she added.
Didiza appealed to the public not to embark on panic buying, saying there is enough for everyone.
“The country has sufficient food supplies. Panic buying will only cause disruptions and inconvenience in the food system. I urge you, fellow-citizens, to also be considerate and purchase that which is sufficient for your needs,” said Didiza.
“To wholesalers and retailers, we urge you not to engage in price gouging, at such a crucial time for the country. You have an important role to play in the supply of food, and the fight against COVID-19. We ask that you continue to serve the nation and help ensure food security at this critical juncture,” she added.