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New lifeline offered in agricultural sector

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Dr Frikkie Maré Photo: Supplied
Dr Frikkie Maré Photo: Supplied

The agricultural sector is set to benefit from the establishment of a body which aims to alleviate distress due to natural disasters and the resulting negative impact on production.

The newly founded Agri Relief Foundation (ARF), a non-profit organisation, targets individual agricultural producers who are in need – both financially and otherwise.

This initiative is the brainchild of four directors with interest in the sector.

The first of these are Dr Frikkie Maré, academic head of the department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS). He is mainly involved in the red meat value chain and serves on numerous boards and committees focused on positively influencing the agricultural sector.

Then there is Ernest Janovsky, with more than 20 years’ experience as an agri-economist that specialised in South African Agri-economic trends. He was the head of Absa’s Agribusiness where he focused on agricultural strategy, product development, risk management and financial reporting.

Johan van den Berg, an agricultural meteorologist, has 36 years’ of experience. He works as a private consultant and specialises in expert information on weather and climate to improve decision-making in agriculture and climate risk management. Van den Berg is also studying the effects of climate change on agriculture.

The last of the four directors is Anton Niemann, who has vast experience in strategic implementation regarding Agri-businesses and co-operations and who has been recognised by Nampo for 50 years’ involvement with Shell and Northern Transvaal co-operations for excellent service to the agricultural market.

Maré said the ARF would help individual agricultural producers combat distress due to natural disasters.

“This may include the loss of grazing due to brown locust, assistance after a farm attack or murder to ensure the day-to-day running of the farm, or the effects of localised natural disasters such as floods, hail, severe cold or fire,” said Maré.

According to him, the group of directors play a key role in screening the applications for assistance and deciding – based on merit and the availability of resources – who they can assist.

Besides the direct benefit to the farmer, this initiative also adds value to the wider society.

“When the sustainability of an agricultural producer is under threat, it also threatens the livelihoods of his or her workers and their families, the rural economy of the nearest town where they purchase production inputs and general groceries, as well as society at large, as less food will be produced. The assistance of the ARF will therefore ripple out.”

He said although there were many institutions in South Africa assisting farmers, most of the current initiatives address large-scale disasters, such as severe droughts, floods, unpreventable pests and diseases, and veld fires that affect many producers.

Maré said businesses or individuals can contribute towards funding, transport, fuel, animal feed and legal services, adding that the ARF has already received contributions from companies such as one animal health company that sponsors a part of its profit from certain products to the foundation on a continuous basis.

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