Free State government invests in producers

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is taking action to overcome the challenges facing the sector. Member of the executive council (MEC), Saki Mokoena, says the main challenge is the changing climate, which affects crop production in the province. Other issues include stock theft, poor road conditions, low demand for agricultural products due to the economic situation and electricity shortages.

Mokoena believes that with the strong leadership in agriculture and the government’s commitment, these challenges can be overcome. He spoke to AgriOrbit during Grain SA‘s Day of Celebration held at Nampo Park. He reassured attendees that the government values the agricultural sector in the Free State for its potential to create jobs, boost the economy, and transform the province into the country’s breadbasket.

Tackling stock theft

Mokoena says stock theft is a persistent problem in the province, especially along the Lesotho border. He says most of the theft is motivated by criminality, but sometimes it also happens when local producers hire undocumented Lesotho nationals to herd their livestock and then have disagreements with them. However, he says the situation is being addressed as a cross-border issue. Mokoena thinks that the police’s stock theft units are not effective enough and that the cooperation between all relevant stakeholders needs to improve, especially in using new technology such as early warning detection systems.

Read more about cattle theft.

Improving road infrastructure

The government is working on reconstructing and improving the roads that are vital for transporting agricultural produce. More projects will be launched in the coming weeks. The government will also intervene and repair the road infrastructure between Bloemfontein and Brandfort, which was severely damaged by veld fires that started in the Bultfontein area. Contractors have been hired to maintain the roads in these areas, as producers need good roads to create fire breaks. The producers agreed to help monitor and approve the work done on the roads after a successful meeting with all the stakeholders.

Investing in farmers

Mokoena says the government is without any doubt investing in the capacity of farmers and no category is being left behind.  The government has now also shifted its attention to commercial farmers, who will be able to consolidate and create more job opportunities if they are boosted. The issue of food security for farmers who are at a subsistence level and who are producing for themselves and selling to markets remains a priority throughout. “We are supplying intensive support, especially to those that have shown dedication and commitment.” Youth and women in agriculture have also received support.  

No empty promises

Mokoena emphasised that the department is committed to fulfilling its promises. They want to strengthen the province’s economy by providing resources to producers. “Creating jobs means putting money in the pockets of private citizens and boosting the household demand. This demand will then buy the same products that producers offer to the market.” – Christal-Lize Muller, AgriOrbit

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