The agricultural sector was considering the adoption of smart disaster aid after sections of the industry were brought to their knees by the prolonged drought, Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said on Monday. “By ‘smart’ we mean that we take small bites at it to help ourselves over the next few years,” Van Zyl said.AGRI SA - Omri van Zyl

The plan would also include favourable financing repayment periods through state-backed development banks. Such discussions were ongoing, he said.

Another leg to the plan was to create a bail-out fund over the long term to combat future droughts as the commercial farming sector is not a direct beneficiary of the government’s disaster relief. Van Zyl cited the sector’s maturity and the willingness of banks to assist farmers as factors that could help the plan off the ground.

“We cannot have a year like we’ve had last year. We didn’t have the mechanisms to support the farmers through the period,” Van Zyl said.

Among the worst-hit was the sugar industry but it is expected to recover following high rainfall. Sectors that depend on maize and soya beans for stockfeed, such as the poultry and pork industries, saw margins shrink because of higher feed prices and greater imports, especially from Europe.

Agri Northern Cape

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