Implementing the Covid-19 lockdown regulations

Implementing the Covid-19 lockdown regulations

The recently announced 21 Day COVID-19 Lockdown Regulations has understandably created much anxiety within the agriculture sector. 

Minister Ivan Meyer, assures the farmers and farmworkers that in terms of Regulation No. 398 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, the sector, being responsible for food security, has been declared as essential.

This declaration reemphasises that the entire food value chain, from farm-related operations, agro-processing and food manufacturing, logistics and related services, wholesale and retail services, and all support functions that ensure efficient delivery of the agro-food system have to be functional to ensure that there is access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

“The safety of our farmers and farm workers on and off work is very important to us” he said.

“We have to ensure that critical agricultural production activities such as harvesting continue uninterrupted – this is done under strict prescripts as provided for in Regulation No. 398 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 and Department of Health COVID-19 hygiene protocol. General hygiene measures must, therefore, be strengthened.”

“National Government will continue to facilitate the export of strategic agricultural commodities to ensure safe and smooth trade during this period.”

“Enough food is available at our food distribution and logistics will ensure food security. There is, therefore, no need for panic buying of food as it only creates distortions and artificial scarcities within the food supply sector.”

“I am thankful for the excellent co-operation I have been receiving from organized agriculture and for their commitment to protect and support farmers and farm workers during this period.”

How to contain the Corona pandemic: health and safety should enjoy the highest priority

The agricultural and agribusiness sectors, who have been granted a special dispensation to continue working under the present lockdown circumstances, needs to strictly adhere to the Government Gazette published regulations.

The majority of enterprises in the agricultural value chain qualify as “essential services” under the regulations published by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma. The Regulations permit entities involved in the production and sale of essential goods, such as food items, to continue operating under the national lockdown, but subject to strict hygiene, sanitation and social-distancing protocols.

Dr. John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz, said that farmworkers are the bedrock of the agricultural sector and these men and women are currently risking their safety and health to ensure the nation stays food secure during these trying times. Their safety cannot be compromised as there would be no food security without them. “By not complying, the sector runs the risk of more stringent and onerous measures being introduced.”

“We urge the sector to hold itself accountable and prioritise the health and safety of everyone in the food value chain. It is our firm belief that the vast majority of employers in the sector have the best interests of their workers at heart and are working under trying conditions to ensure the nation stays food secure. 

Our fresh fruit and vegetable supply unaffected in face of COVID-19 lock down

As an essential part of the country’s food security network, South Africa’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply channels will remain active and efficient – even given the recent announcement of lock down measures…

‘Fresh fruit and vegetables are an essential part of the food security network and South Africa is filled with world class producers, big and small, who produce fresh produce of the highest quality and pack and transport it, adhering to required international hygiene standards,’ says Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of RSA Group, the country’s largest fresh produce sales organisation.  

To ensure this high level of adherence, RSA Group’s Business Unit Heads are running ongoing briefing sessions on hygiene protocols at all of its fresh produce markets of operation. This ongoing programme will allow it to keep on servicing the crucial local retail sector effectively and safely, while also ensuring that its Freshworld export operation continues to do business for all of its producers and their customers. 

‘We trust that market management and relevant local authorities will be taking matching and supporting health and safety actions,’ says Oosthuizen. ‘It’s crucial that all industry players coordinate their efforts to protect local businesses and ensure consumer safety and national food security at this time.’ 

Thankfully, South Africa’s fresh produce market system is robust and able to adjust to sudden changes in supply and demand. Markets remain the primary reference point for fresh produce prices, and the country’s markets are currently fully stocked. Stable prices are reflective of this. 

‘The system is structured to ensure producers and buyers are able to interact easily, even when external conditions change suddenly,’ says Oosthuizen. ‘This is a key strength of the South African fresh produce market distribution system, whether it’s facing a crisis or not.’

‘People need to be healthy in the middle of this pandemic, and fresh fruit and vegetables play a crucial role,’ Oosthuizen adds. ‘Fresh produce markets across the country are following strict hygiene standards, so when it comes to shopping and eating fresh fruit and vegetables, consumers should simply focus on following the basic COVID-19 guidelines. Make sure you wash your hands well, and regularly, and of course wash the produce thoroughly before cooking or eating it.’

‘The fresh produce market system is strong and functioning well,’ Oosthuizen concludes. ‘I am confident we will meet all national food security requirements during lock down.’