In some parts of the country where the roads are particularly degraded, some farmers say they are about to throw in the towel. Transport problems are not only accelerating the erosion of their profitability, but the poor state of the roads – aggravated by recent heavy rains – turned out to be deadly.
A young farmer from Thaba Nchu in the Free State, Tsholofelo Motlhale, tells Food For Mzansi that floodwaters have turned a bad situation into a major problem.
“Our road infrastructure is in such a deplorable state that delivery trucks and our distributors cannot enter our farms on rainy days. We can’t carry anything heavy like cattle and big loads of crops. It delays work and costs us more money for operations,” she says.
Motlhale recently had to shell out some hard-earned cash when a truck that was supposed to dig a borehole got stuck in mud for three days and the contractor charged extra for the downtime. The truck was eventually pulled out by a tractor and backhoe loader.
Another Free State farmer, Hannetjie Human of Reitz, says farmers are tired of government promises not being kept and farmers being forced to take on the task of fixing roads on behalf of the state. .
“For the past four years, farmers have been forced to repair dirt roads on their own to enable seed farmers to move loads of grain to grain elevators, and cattle ranchers to move their cattle at auction points.
“They rent scrapers themselves and pay for the repair of dirt roads themselves. These include the road between Lindley and Doornkloof and [roads] in the Kaallaagte district,” she says.
Inaccessibility of roads also means that farmers can no longer fetch workers from residential areas on a regular basis, affecting both farmers and day laborers who lose income.
“Damage to vehicles caused by potholes on poor roads is very expensive for farmers,” says Human. “We’re not even talking about the loss of life of the many people who have already died in the Free State over the past few years.”
The most recent farmer death attributed to poor road conditions in Mzansi, occurred in Limpopo on the R522 between Vivo and Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. Food For Mzansi previously reported that a local farmer, Gillie Fick, a well-known producer in the cattle industry, died earlier this year due to a pothole in a bad road. . His death followed that of another farmer, Gert Fourie, who died in a car accident on the same road.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union later complained that the Limpopo provincial government awarded taxi drivers R5,000 to compensate them for damage to their vehicles while the farmers received nothing.
According to the union the R522 is a deadly road.
In Gauteng, the youth leader of the African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa), Katlego Kgopotse, says farmers in the north of the province – particularly in the Winterveld – face problems of bad road maintenance.
“Because of the uncertain roads and when it rains, they cannot access their farms. Additionally, feed suppliers find it difficult to access farms when making feed deliveries to poultry farmers.
“As Afasa in Gauteng, we implore the government to assist our farmers in this regard to maintain farm roads.”
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