Since the declaration of a national disaster, the Western Department of Agriculture has been working closely with a number of its stakeholders.
Commenting on the engagements with stakeholders Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer expressed his satisfaction that organised agriculture has been proactive in putting in place measures to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Minister Meyer: “Our key stakeholders have been exceptional at not only putting in place their own measures to deal with the COVID-19 virus but are also very supportive of the initiatives the Western Cape Department of Agriculture has put in place to protect the sector.”
Stakeholders include Agri Western Cape, Hortgro, VinPro and the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA).
According to Jannie Strydom, CEO of Agri Western Cape, the organisation is keeping in close contact with all its members to ensure the safety and the productivity of the sector during the lockdown period.
Jannie Strydom: “The health of every person in the agricultural sector remains our first priority and that the organisation has plans in place to manage the lockdown period as effectively as possible and is therefore working closely with all relevant authorities and its members to ensure that all regulations are adhered to.”
Speaking on behalf of the SA Deciduous Fruit Growers Association, Hortgro, Executive Director, Anton Rabe emphasized his organisations commitment to ensuring that its members were in line with the recently announced regulations and creating a safe working environment for employees.
Anton Rabe: “As an essential service industry, the farming, packing and processing community are doing whatever we can to ensure a safe work environment by adhering to the physical distancing rule and where available and practical to make use of protective personal equipment.”
Ismail Motala of AFASA echoed the call for the agricultural sector to adhere to the strict rules of hygiene.
Ismail Motala: “We must ensure that employees are well informed about the pandemic and ensure that we provide the required cleaning and hygiene. We cannot stress more that in the workplace we must be strict about social distancing even if it means redesigning our production methods so that employees are not working close to each other.”
Minister Meyer highlights that Agriculture makes a significant contribution to the Western Cape Economy and even as we adhere to the call to observe the Lockdown regulations we need to ensure that the sector remains resilient.
Minister Meyer: “I am grateful to the National Minister for declaring Agriculture and related food production an essential service as it will go a long way in mitigating possible job losses in the sector.”
According to VinPro MD, Rico Basson the wine industry is South Africa’s second largest exporter of agricultural products and with a value chain which employs close to 300 000 people.
Rico Basson: “We are truly very grateful for the opportunity to continue harvesting. This will allow us to contribute to the economy and job creation in this difficult time, as close to 25 000 permanent agri-workers, as well as a huge component of seasonal workers, can now work optimally to bring in the last of the 2020 harvest and also be able to provide to their families”.
“I am indeed thankful for the manner in which the sector is driving home the social distancing, stay at home messages and the need to create a safe working environment for farmers and agri-workers” says Minister Meyer.