The deterioration of the country’s road network and continued poor maintenance is having a direct impact on the agricultural sector – and by extension, the price of produce in South Africa, says industry body AgriSA.
In a media briefing on Tuesday (5 April), the group presented survey results from participants in the agricultural sector which was initiated to determine the impact of deteriorating road infrastructure on the sector.
“The findings are dire, and point to the enormous cost of South Africa’s poor road maintenance for the proper functioning and growth of the sector,” AgriSA said.
“The costs incurred range from engine and trailer damage to shorter vehicle lifespan and accidents. It added that the increased transport and maintenance costs ultimately affect the consumer, determining how much consumers pay, and how fresh they receive the produce.”
The survey revealed that participating farmers rely on road transportation to move an average of 94% of their produce. On average, participants transported an estimated R23 million worth of agricultural produce by road in the last financial year for a combined total of more than R7.1 billion.
13% of the respondents relied on road transportation weekly, while more than 87% relied on roads daily. This explains why 69% of the respondents had at some point attempted to fix affected roads themselves. The respondents on average incurred repair and other related costs of more the R200,000 per participant.
“While this may be affordable for the biggest sector players, it is untenable for South Africa’s small-scale farmers,” Agri SA said.
“All this constrains the potential of the sector to contribute to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Produce and employment. The sector already contributes R128 billion to GDP, but this can be even higher. This potential is illustrated by the fact that it was one of the few sectors to increase employment in the latest Quarterly Labour Force Statistics.”
Agri SA said it will be sharing this data with the presidency and the investment and infrastructure office and has called on the government to join with the sector in addressing these issues now.
“This survey has demonstrated the resilience and dedication of farmers who have continued to outperform the broader economy despite immense challenges. Amid rising input costs, the nation’s food producers have persisted even at immense personal cost, but this is unsustainable.
“Agri SA, therefore, stands ready to cooperate with the government to ensure that we give our farmers the best chance of success, and in the process ensure the future food security of South Africa.”