Agri Eastern Cape to meet SANRAL over veld fires

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

Agri Eastern Cape are set to meet with the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) in Port Elizabeth next week to discuss preventative measures following a series of veld fires that ravaged the province in recent weeks.

The fires have caused an estimated R50 million worth of damages to farming operations in the Molteno, Sterkstroom, Dordrecht, Jamestown and Somerset East districts.

Agri Eastern Cape Spokesman, Christo Venter, said that the organisation hoped to convince SANRAL to provide assistance in burning the road reserves along the N6 highway, which cuts a path through the province from Aliwal North to East London.

“Farmers usually burn firebreaks alongside the road reserve but if this SANRAL-managed portion is also burnt, it will widen the firebreaks and prevent the fires from jumping the road.”

According to Venter, the latest fire figures reflect losses amounting to 280 sheep, 400 head of cattle and 37 000 hectares of grazing.

“The value of the livestock alone is R5 million, with the lost future production value of these animals around seven times that.”

Infrastructural damage, including water pipelines and fencing, amounted to a further R10 million, he said.

Venter said generous Agri EC members had rushed to the assistance of the 35 affected farmers, with cash donations of more than R25 000, but added that more was needed.

“Fellow farmers always assist their neighbours with grazing and spare fodder but two consecutive dry years in the area have unfortunately limited contributions.”

While assistance was available from elsewhere in the province, he said the cost of transporting the donated fodder was usually the biggest challenge.

Venter said Agri EC was proud of their members’ willingness to help.

“How farmers always find the means in very difficult times to assist fellow farmers is something that you are not likely to find in another sector.

“Maybe it’s because they realise that such a disaster can hit them at any time.”

Farmers in the Graaff-Reinet area were also affected by veld fires last week but the extent of the losses has yet to be confirmed.