State digs up R1,2bn to help distressed farmers

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State digs up R1,2bn to help distressed farmers

Small-scale farmers will get some relief as agricultural commodity prices and demand from Asia plummet

Bekezela Phakathi
Agriculture, land reform & rural development minister Thoko Didiza announces interventions in the agricultural sector to ensure continued food production during Covid-19 and beyond.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT Agriculture, land reform & rural development minister Thoko Didiza announces interventions in the agricultural sector to ensure continued food production during Covid-19 and beyond.
Image: GCIS/Kopano Tlape

Distressed farmers are set to receive government grants to help them through the coronavirus crisis, agriculture, land reform & rural development minister Thoko Didiza announced in Pretoria on Monday.

The department has ring-fenced R1.2bn, mainly for financially distressed small-scale farmers. Of this, R400m has been allocated for farmers in the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy programme. These are the beneficiaries of the government land acquisition model under land redistribution. The remainder will be channelled to farmers mainly in the poultry, livestock and vegetable farming sectors.

“Other commodity sectors will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as the department continuously monitors the impact of Covid-19 on the sector at large,” Didiza said.

The coronavirus has left the global economy reeling and stocks plummeting amid fears of a jobs bloodbath. The pandemic has also led to a decline in Asia’s agriculture demand and falling agricultural commodity prices.

SA’s agricultural sector could lose as much as R42bn in export revenue due to the outbreak, as key trading partners limit business activity to curb the spread of the disease.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation highlights that transport restrictions and quarantine measures are likely to impede small- and large-scale farmers’ access to input and output markets, curbing productive capacities. Shortages of labour caused by the virus could also disrupt production and processing of food.

The aim is to provide immediate to near-term support to smallholder farmers  affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thoko Didiza

Didiza said support for the agricultural sector is, in part, to ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for the country.

She said it will be reserved for SA citizens or permanent residents who have been farming for a minimum of 12 months and who are in the production season or cycle, and smallholder farmers with annual turnover between R50,000 and R1m.

“The adjudication will prioritise women, youth and people with disabilities. [Those seeking to apply for assistance] should also be registered on [the] farmer register, commodity database or provincial database,” Didiza said, adding that communal farmers will also be prioritised.

“Mechanisation, infrastructure and overhead costs will not be supported. This is not comprehensive support, but an intervention package amid Covid-19. Farmers who are preparing for the 2020 summer production season will not be supported. The aim is to provide immediate to near-term support to smallholder farmers affected by Covid-19,” the minister said.

Farmers who are receiving support through other programmes run by the government and its entities are also excluded, she said, and the grant cannot be used to pay debts. It can only be used for production purposes, such as feed, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction.

Applications for funding will be open from Wednesday until April 22.  

“No late entries will be accepted. Application forms will be available on the departmental website, www.dalrrd.gov.za, and through national, provincial, district and local offices of the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development and provincial departments of agriculture.

“Applications will be lodged electronically at applications@dalrrd.gov.za or submitted to the offices as outlined.”

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