Agri Eastern Cape president Doug Stern has called on the province’s farmers to stay on their land despite facing the triple financial threat of unrelenting drought, raging veld fires and land expropriation without compensation.
As the drought entered its fifth straight year, Stern said stock farmers’ cashflow had been dealt an additional blow in the form of falling commodity prices due to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
Describing the drought as “one of the worst farmers have had to endure, due to its intensity”, he said summer heatwaves had resulted in the further deterioration of the veld.
“More importantly, this has impacted dramatically on our farmers’ water resources, with borehole levels dropping almost daily and surface water drying up completely, resulting in major livestock water supply problems.”
Stern said, over the past four years, farmers had recorded annual rainfall figures varying between 30 and 70% below what their average annual rainfall should have been.
“The official word from the weather authorities is that we can expect the prevailing dry conditions to continue, with no significant rainfall being predicted. However, we as farmers believe that rainfall is always possible.”
He said agricultural producers’ cashflow had been stretched extremely thin, as they had been spending large sums of money for long periods with the purpose of keeping their animals and lands in a productive condition.
“2018 was an incredibly tough year for farmers throughout the Eastern Cape for a number of reasons.
“Our farmers are renowned for their resilience. However, this resilience is now being properly tested by the climatic conditions we are expected to deal with on a sustained basis, without any support from the state to date.”
Despite this, Stern said he had every confidence that the province’s farmers would survive the drought, as previous generations had done, by standing together and doing their best to remain productive contributors to the South African economy.
“This country cannot do without its farmers, so I urge you to stay on your land and find a way through the dry, tricky road ahead.”