South Africa’s poor infrastructure costing farmers R8 billion per year

South Africa’s poor infrastructure costing farmers R8 billion per year

The poor state of infrastructure across income generating sectors is getting in the way of South Africa’s next hoped-for economic boom.

And a simple thing such as poorly maintained roads were one of the biggest problems in one of SA’s fastest growing sectors, agriculture, according to AgriSA director Christo van der Rheede.

He said R8 billion in total was lost per year as 40,000 farmers on average were losing approximately R200,000 per annum each.

“It is important to note that without roads, there cannot be food security, functional communities and the lack of socio-economic development leads to more poverty,” he said.

He added that the long-term consequences were farmers paying more from their own pockets for municipal services and farmers taking over the responsibilities of government.

Free State Agriculture commercial manager Dr Jack Armour said the cost of upgrading provincial roads to suitable standards was estimated at more than R23 billion.

This was based on consultations with engineers in 2020 and the problems stemmed from systemic issues in the department.

Armour said the budget was “way too small” to ever catch up with the backlog in repairs and the Contractor Development Programmes did not work.

Energy analyst Clyde Mallinson said energy was a very important component and the agricultural sector had been affected by intermittent supply.

He said in the case of power distribution to a big city it was easy for Eskom to deliver a supply, but farms were scattered over a big area and the cost of distributing electricity to rural areas, including agricultural areas, was quite expensive.

“It is expensive to deliver electricity to far-flung areas and it is more expensive to deliver to farmers partially because of the need to do rural electrification,” he said.

Mallinson said Eskom had focused on extending its reach but had neglected a rural electrification network that was already in place.

He said farmers were now considering going off grid because the Eskom supply had become more unreliable, but that anyone who benefited from that grid, like people in small rural villages, would be affected.

“The distribution grid benefits both farmers and rural communities but if farmers start defecting from the grid due to lack of service and high cost of electricity, it will impact not just the farmers but the rural communities who depend on it for their livelihoods,” he said.

“In some areas, services provided by Eskom to maintain that network were no longer fit for purpose. “Farm-related electrical distribution systems have been weakened through acts of asset stripping, cable theft and stealing struts from pylons.”

Mallinson said SA’s biggest problem was not necessarily connection, but the affordability of that connection and that applied equally to rural cities and urban ones.

ALSO READ: Load shedding threatens farmers lives, physically and financially

“People are not trained properly, while others are not qualified and contractors are not correctly supervised,” he said.

Political analyst Levy Ndou said the deteriorating infrastructure had a severe impact on various sectors and it was an indication of a poor management system.

Ndou said the inability to bring about reform spoke to the administration of departments regarding whether they actually did the work expected.

“The government needs to lead by example because if they do not maintain infrastructure then they indirectly encourage people not to respect it also,” he said.

“If there is no procurement, then people will take advantage of that.

↯↯↯Read More On The Topic On TDPel Media ↯↯↯

»Share Your Opinion On TDPel Media«