KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the main provider of South Africa’s agricultural produce, is on the brink of a severe food crisis due to a drought that has ravaged the region in the past five years as well as Covid-19 disruption, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala has warned.
Zikalala said while harvests and the outlook for staple crops were promising prior to the pandemic, Covid-19 and the national lockdown had turned the already fragile food security state of the province into disaster.
“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that the impending worst food emergency could have a long-term severe impact on thousands of children and adults already impoverished in KwaZulu-Natal,” he indicated.
Zikalala was speaking at the launch of the Provincial Multi-Planting Season in the Harry Gwala District in KZN last Friday.
The launch was part of the food and nutrition recovery action the premier and KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi hosted with the aim of strengthening solidarity behind the call to begin planting in October to bolster food security.
Zikalala said regarding the land expropriation without compensation programme, in KZN 21 farms amounting to more than 9 000 hectares would be made available to local black farmers.
“We also encourage community members to use the land they have in their rural areas to plant with the intention of ultimately supplying the markets to ensure food security.
“We want the Raset programme to provide a market to young and upcoming farmers. Their produce will be taken to schools and hospitals. We intend to also come up with agri hubs that will assist to process produce so that we could even export,” he added.
Sithole-Moloi said due to financial constraints, the provincial government had launched this programme aiming to plant 21 000 hectares throughout the province, which would cost R90 million for the current season alone.
The Harry Gwala region has the most land at 4 000 hectares that will be ploughed this season.
University of Zululand economist Professor Lorraine Greyling said times were tough in the agricultural sector.
“With the current state of economy and so many jobs lost, this meant that people lost spending income to now live on grants and this led to a demand insecurity.
“Now we have farmers who are asking themselves whether they should plant or not. On one hand they know that if they plant they will incur debt and are not sure what will happen in the future.
“We might have reached a production standstill,” said Greyling. -BusinessReport