South African farmers lose billions each year due to theft

In South Africa, the scope of theft of agricultural products such as maize, fruit and livestock is exceedingly difficult to quantify, but the fact is that such crimes have a profound impact on farmers’ sustainability and profitability. It also means they are forced to spend vast sums on security measures.

“It’s impossible to fully determine the extent of theft on farms. A 2018 Agri SA survey showed that seven out of ten participants had at some stage suffered losses due to the theft of infrastructure. [These crimes] cost the primary production sector R5,7 billion in 2018,” said Tommie Esterhuyse, chairperson of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Rural Safety.

Esterhuyse said that joblessness and the ailing economy have a tremendous impact on crime and criminality in the agriculture sector. Individuals suffering from abject poverty might see no other way out than to commit crimes. However, there is also an increase of well-organised, profit-driven organised crime groupings operating.

Agricultural and rural crime obviously have an impact on food security. If allowed to continue unabated, crime could force farmers off their land. That’s why we petition the police to do everything in their power to combat it; it’s in the national interest.

“Avocados are stolen because they are high value. Joblessness may be a contributing factor, but farmworkers, not the jobless, are often involved. Often, theft is well organised and people are ‘employed’ to go out and steal fruit. Hawking stands are often owned by entrepreneurs who employ people to run these stands,” Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association, told citizen.co.za.


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