The DA in the Free State has welcomed the resolution by the Free State Executive Council to declare the province a drought disaster area. This follows a special request by the DA earlier in January, directed to Premier Sisi Ntombela and the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Benny Malakoane. Roy Jankielsohn, DA leader in the province, said the request by his party had come after assessing the adverse impact of drought and crime on farmers in the province. He said the drought has had a devastating impact on both stock and grain farmers. According to Jankielsohn, the drought disaster declaration was the first step in ensuring that residents received government assistance. “The agricultural sector in the Free State is the foundation of our rural economies and the province cannot afford to lose more farmers to the drought. Our farmers are already struggling to survive due to increasing input costs, poor road conditions and crime,” he said. “Farmers continue to lose, on average, between R300 000 and R400 000 per year as a result of crimes such as the theft of livestock, equipment and vehicles. This has depleted reserves that could have mitigated some of the conditions caused by the drought.” Jankielsohn said a recent report by Agri SA was testimony to the fact that farmers in the province play a key role in the economy of South Africa.“The report indicates that the Free State is responsible for 39% of dry beans, 34% of grain sorghum, 45% of ground nuts, 38% of soya, 58% of sunflower, 28% of maize, 16% of wheat, 19% of beef and 19% of sheep production in the country, among many other commodities,” Jankielsohn said.“The effects of the drought will therefore not only be felt in the Free State, but nationwide. “It is crucial that the government intervenes to support and sustain this crucial sector that provides food for our growing urban population in the country,” he stated.According to Jankielsohn, the DA will continue to lobby for more drought relief in the Free State from both provincial and national government.