Relaxed SA lockdown a boost to agriculture

Bumper maize crop for South Africa

Maize production

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News)THE relaxation of the current South African lockdown is widely viewed as positive news for the agricultural industry, especially the sub-sectors most impacted by the restrictions against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

This is according to analysts as Africa’s most advanced economy headed towards the end of its lockdown and transitions into a five-level alert system at the beginning of May.

The current lockdown is rated as Level 5 and can be termed “drastic measures.”

Level 4, which comes into effect on May 1, will be based on economic resumption but with “extreme precautions” to prevent a rapid increase in the rate of infection.

Dawie Maree, Head of Information and Marketing at FNB Agriculture, said the phased or risk-adjusted approach would be beneficial to the farming sector.

This is because all agricultural activities can resume as normal, including industries such as the wine industry, although the sale of alcohol will still be prohibited.

“The wine industry will, therefore, be able to produce and make wine but probably will need to store or export the produce. Forestry will also be able to resume production as normal,” Maree stated.

Maree noted that levels might vary between provinces and municipal districts, which might affect agriculture again, thus producers needed to stay informed of developments.

The analyst pointed out that the interpretation of the regulations was somewhat ambiguous in the different provinces, which led to unhappiness in the red meat industry when auctions for example in the Free State were stopped and prohibited.

“It is important to note that the move to Level 4 will hopefully sort out these challenges,” Maree said.

Mining, as well as financial and professional services, will also resume activity, a development Maree added would be positive news for agriculture in the sense that the deeds office would most probably resume activities and hence financial transactions, such as farm purchases, could resume.

Although most measures on Level 4 will be similar to Level 5 lockdown, the risk-adjusted approach for lifting the lockdown was the most appropriate one to prevent another hard lockdown for the country, the expert said.

“The South African economy will not be able to withstand another Level 5 lockdown. It is therefore imperative that we all adhere to the restrictions set out for as long as possible to protect ourselves and our economy,” Maree added.

South Africa announced the lockdown at the end of March amid the escalating cases of COVID-19. The lockdown was initially for 21 days but was extended by two weeks until April 30.

Siobhan Redford, the economist at Rand Merchant Bank, said economic activity would remain compressed for the foreseeable future as the government now tries to balance the need for companies to be operating to protect jobs against the risk of a COVID-19 transmission blowout.

She noted the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa had decided to take a cautious approach to end the lockdown but it would start putting more of the onus to prevent a spike in transmissions in the hands of the people.

“Thus, should you want to see greater freedom, don’t forget to continue social distancing and stay home,” Redford advised.

She explained South Africa’s economy would be opening up, but gradually, based on an assessment by the National Command Council on the rate of transmission and the availability of hospital resources to deal with the infection.

At the beginning of the week, the country had over 4 540 cases and 87 deaths from COVID-19.

– CAJ News

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