Farm unions lobby for drought relief

2010-10-07 00:00

THE current drought could be declared an agricultural disaster and farming unions are already lobbying the government to provide relief to the many farmers facing the severest dry spell in 10 years.

Farmers say the recent rains have done little but settle the dust.

The South African Weather Services said only 2,8 mm of rain had been recorded for September at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus weather station. This is a new low, compared with an average for the month of 43 mm for the last 10 years.

The Witness reported yesterday that between 10% and 15% of South Coast banana farmers could face financial ruin with many workers at risk of losing their jobs, unless the government intervenes and comes to their rescue.

Growers of inland crops, such as potatoes, dairy farmers and livestock farmers are also reportedly battling.

Allan Penderis of Tammac Consul­tants, an agricultural consultancy specialising in dairy farm management, said dairy farmers have just a month before the effects of the drought take effect in the sector.

“At this point the pastures are still fine, but we are already seeing a situation where some people are cutting back on irrigation, and if the drought continues we might see the situation deteriorate.”

He said the dairy farmers have reported good production and low sales and do not foresee any milk price increases in the immediate future.

“There is already a surplus of milk and we are just seeing the milk prices depressing.”

Robin Barnsley, president of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, said the farming industry in the province is taking severe strain and a lot more rain is needed to alleviate the situation.

“While the drops of rain that have fallen are welcome, they have done no more than just settle the dust. A lot more rain is needed to alleviate the situation as many farmers are under severe pressure.”

He said the union is already in negotiations with the government to provide drought relief.

“We cannot elaborate on those negotiations as they are at a sensitive stage, but we are negotiating with the government to provide drought relief for the most severely affected farmers,” Barnsley added.

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