Eastern Cape farmers, who are still battling the worst drought in living memory, are being squeezed even more by the Covid-19 lockdown. Some of the worst-hit are medium-size farmers, who do not qualify for agriculture minister Thoko Didiza’s R1.2 billion Covid-19 relief package, which makes provision only for farmers who earn between R50,000 and R1 million a year.
Didiza said earlier this month that machinery, infrastructure and overhead costs would not be supported and that there would be no payment of debt or financial support. However, the DA called for the aid package to be reconsidered as the lockdown was having a devastating impact on the finances of medium-scale farmers, who were consequently struggling to adhere to regulations around, for instance, transport with its extra cost implications.
One such farmer, William Kapank, has been in the vegetable farming business in the Langkloof for more than 35 years. But the coronavirus had been the worst disaster to weather to date, he said.
Kapank said he and his team were harvesting 10ha of potatoes at present, but he could not do business like before because his usual local markets were not available and his financial income had been cut.
He said the farm he managed had incurred extra costs because of the regulations, especially when it came to transporting staff. The government lockdown regulations on the transport of farm workers stipulates that vehicles should not be more than 50% full.
“Employees and drivers should at all times be in possession of the permit designating them to perform an essential service and ... employees must be required to follow hygiene procedures such as using hand sanitisers and/or washing hands before entering a vehicle,” the regulations state.
[ R1 = €0.048 ]