Over Half SA’s Farmers Suffering Depression as ‘Colossal’ Drought Costs SA Farms R7 Billion in Past Year

More than half of South Africa’s farmers are suffering depression and anxiety as SA’s farms lost R7 billion ($510 million) in potential revenue and 31,000 jobs were cut since January 2018 because of the severe drought ravaging parts of South Africa, according to a survey of farmers. The figures were released by Agri SA on Friday. The farm industry body warned that the ‘colossal crisis’ poses a severe risk to socio-political stability in the country.

A farmer inspects the soil ahead of planting at a maize field in Wesselsbron, a small maize farming town in the Free State province of South Africa, January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The survey was conducted amongst Agri SA’s members during December 2018.

Key findings include:

• 31 000 jobs lost and R7 billion lost since January 2018
• 70% of respondents struggle financially
• Over 50% reported the need to retrench farm workers
• A devastating impact on crops due to continuing drought
• An increased risk of veld fires due to the arid conditions of pastures

Agri SA said food security can be easily lost due to the persistent drought, and that the organisation will rally all stakeholders to support farmers and farm workers in drought afflicted areas.

If nothing is done, they said – a bleak future lies ahead with rising food prices, malnutrition and food-inequality.

Christo van der Rheede, Agri SA Deputy Executive Director, said: “The economic impact is severe, but we need to think of the human cost as well – people are losing their jobs and farms are closing down at a time when we need to strengthen food security and create more employment.

“More than half of the farmers are suffering from depression and anxiety, among others, due to the challenging reality caused by the drought.”

Food and water scarcity pose a severe risk to socio-political stability in the country. A collective effort is required to prevent a national disaster, said Agri SA in a media release on Friday.

In the next two weeks emergency meetings will be held on how to best assist farmers and farm workers in drought-stricken areas.

Agri SA says it is already in discussions with various role players, including government, financial institutions and agribusinesses.

The organisation has pledged to continue to support farmers on the ground.

“The drought is a colossal crisis. South Africans, who are enjoying the affordable food and drink that is produced by our farmers, need to wake up and realise that food security and affordable food are at risk,” said Omri van Zyl, Agri SA Executive Director.

“Since the end of 2015 Agri SA’s Drought Disaster Fund has spent more than R18 million to help our farmers, farm workers and communities. We again call on the public to help.”

Agri SA said it is thankful for the support from the public and other organisations that seek to help farmers. However, it advised that the public must ensure that when making a donation, that the organisation is credible and that the funds can be traced.

Read the full report here: Agri SA Drought Report

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