Soundbite by Noko Masipa MP – 27 September 2022
The Democratic Alliance conducted an oversight visit at Addo and Kirkwood, in the Sarah Baartman District to ascertain the extent of the challenges faced by farmers.
Information received indicated that farmers were dumping citrus fruit, due to higher costs and various other factors, with tons of citrus fruit on the trees that must still be picked. See photos here, here and here.
The variable farming costs and other factors which caused the dumping of citrus fruit, amongst others, include the cost of production, transport and labour costs and the lack of market access.
The long unnecessary workers’ strike action, led by SANCO that took place earlier this year, caused infrastructural damages of around R500 million, and contributed to some of the current challenges.
The small towns of Kirkwood and Addo which depend heavily on the citrus farming economy are faced with bleak economic prospects and major job losses.
Despite these challenges, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) failed to assess the situation.
The black emerging farmers on 30 years PLAS farms lease are faced with a gloomy future. These farmers can’t pick or spray because they cannot afford it.
For many farmers who can, they are going to use this time to leverage with their banks before the situation worsens. However, the disgruntled land reform farm beneficiaries cannot use their farms as security to borrow from the banks to cover spraying and next input costs because their contract with the government does not make provisions.
Despite DALRRD knowing these challenges, it failed to make an allocation for this kind of disaster or future commercialization prospects.
Furthermore, farmers lamented heavily about the lack of market access in the United States of America (USA). In the past, the USA refused citrus from South Africa due to black spots. However, there have been incidents of black spots in California and Florida.
After the industry spotted the gap in 2017, they worked with the department and prepared protocol negotiation documents and to date, the industry has had no feedback.
While DALRRD was kept abreast regarding the increased planting of citrus in the country, the department has failed to intensify efforts of concluding new protocols for market access.
The current freight costs and petrol prices have made it uneconomical to take the fruit to the market. Hence, farmers have opted to dump these fruits. While the costs of picking the fruit, fertiliser costs, petrol costs and freight costs have doubled, the citrus fruit prices have halved.
The DA reiterates its call on the government to reduce the fuel levies to alleviate the burden of costs on food production.
Furthermore, we call on DALRRD to address key failures of the land reforms that include, amongst others, provision of post-settlement support, provision of title deeds to allow farmers to engage directly with the banks to borrow funding and opening of new markets for farmers.