Industry organisation Agri South Africa (Agri SA), as part of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Covid-19 task force, has been working closely with government to determine appropriate movement of essential goods related to the agriculture industry, which is a privilege the industry must work with responsibly.
“Stakeholders in services and products on the input side of food production, as well as in food production operations, need to ensure that the necessary precautionary measures are in place for all processes, to prevent further spreading of the virus,” says Agri SA.
Agri SA, as well as other task team members Agbiz, Grain South Africa and TLU South Africa, have gotten permission from the National Covid-19 Operational and Intelligence Task Team that harvesting and storage or all farm products, including wine, tobacco, wool and mohair, can be included in the definition of essential products.
The majority of enterprises in the agricultural value chain qualify as essential services under the National Disaster Management Act regulations published by government in mid-March.
Agri SA says stakeholders must take the utmost care to comply with social distancing rules in the work and transport environments, ensure that staff work with masks and gloves, while monitoring them closely to pick up on flu-like symptoms.
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development also weighed in on the matter, stating that employers in the agricultural sector must observe the provisions in the State of Disaster regulations and the recommendations for hygiene, social distancing and other measures necessary to keep farmers and others safe and to fight the coronavirus transmission risk.
Agri SA has distributed its movement template with its logo to members that they can use with their own logos to comply to the movement permit requirements.
The organisation has also set up a command centre that provides daily updates, scenario planning, commodity issues, provincial issues and corporate issues experienced in the implementation of South Africa’s national lockdown. Some of these issues include port infrastructure updates and safety, labour, transport, and import and export protocols.
Agri SA will maintain communication with its members around the many rules and regulations that are applied differently across South Africa’s provinces.
Meanwhile, Agbiz has noted with concern a series of images circulating on social media that show agricultural workers being transported in conditions that do not meet the requisite hygiene and sanitation levels required by law at this time.
“While it cannot be verified when these photos were taken, it is disturbing to note that critical restrictions related to hygiene and load capacity appear to have been flounted.
“We urge members of the agricultural and agribusiness sectors, who have been granted a special dispensation to continue working under current circumstances, to strictly adhere to the new regulations and hold each other accountable to comply with the law,” says Agbiz CEO Dr John Purchase.
He urged all stakeholders in the agriculture industry to comply, to not run the risk of more stringent and onerous measures being introduced as a result of irresponsible conduct.