The amount of money small-scale farmers spend on fixing roads is unsustainable and may cripple them in the long run, according to AgriSA. The association, which was briefing the media on the results of a survey it conducted on the impact of deteriorating roads on the agricultural sector, revealed that many farmers were attempting to fix roads themselves.
AgriSA agricultural economist Kulani Siweya said this week that the findings were dire and pointed to the enormous cost of South Africa’s poor road maintenance on the functioning and growth of the sector. The survey revealed that respondents transported an average of 94% of their produce on roads.“The produce moved in the last financial year, just by those surveyed, was worth more than R7.1 billion. This explains why 69% of the respondents at some point attempted to fix the roads themselves,” he said.
“These farmers are incurring related costs of more than R200,000 per participant. “Operational challenges, because of the state of our roads, have led to an estimated average loss of 16% in turnover during the last financial year surveyed,” Siweya said food producers, including small-scale farmers, could not be expected to carry these costs, especially considering the state of the economy.
“This survey has demonstrated the resilience and dedication of farmers who have continued to outperform the broader economy despite immense challenges,” he said. “Amid rising input costs, the nation’s food producers have persisted even (at) immense personal cost.” Poor roads constrained the sector’s potential to contribute to the country’s GDP and staggering unemployment levels, Siweya warned.
“This potential cannot be fulfilled without determined and urgent action to address the problem of transportation infrastructure,” he said. Siweya told Vutivi News that money being spent on a small scale was unsustainable. “This will undermine their viability as well as their sustainability, but also their future in the sector as well, so we need this matter to be addressed urgently,” he said.
KwaZulu Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) CEO Sandy La Marque, who was also at the briefing, shared findings from the “Kwanalu Roads Report 2022”. La Marque said that the report found that roads in KwaZulu-Natal were in appalling condition. “(Their condition results in) hampering the movement of goods and services in rural and agricultural areas, directly impacting the economy, increasing the costs of doing business and stifling opportunities for economic growth,” she said.
Road infrastructure plays a critical role in South Africa’s economy and is the main mode of transport for goods, with the rail sector facing numerous challenges. Private companies are increasingly stepping in to help the government address the country’s aging road infrastructure.