Farmers who are ‘hardest hit’ will be prioritised

2016-03-02 06:00
THE Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, says although the department will provide drought relief for commercial farmers, it will prioritise emerging farmers who were hardest hit by the drought.                               Photo: Mlungisi Louw

THE Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, says although the department will provide drought relief for commercial farmers, it will prioritise emerging farmers who were hardest hit by the drought. Photo: Mlungisi Louw

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THE Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, said although the department will provide drought relief for commercial farmers, it will prioritise emerging farmers who were hardest hit by the drought.

Zokwane was addressing the media in Thaba Nchu on Monday (29/02) following site visits to farming communities around the area.

The minister, accompanied by the Free State MEC for Agriculture, Oupa Khoabane, visited Rietfontein and Gladstone Trusts, where fodder was distributed to emerging farmers.

Zokwane said the R1 billion allocated for drought relief will be distributed to provinces, especially those hardest hit by the drought.

The minister explained that although departments will prioritise emerging farmers based on need, commercial farmers will also get support from government after being assessed.

“Emerging farmers cannot afford fodder and water sources such as boreholes,” he said.

Zokwana said the January rains have brought slight relief to farmers.

However, he added that the government was deeply concerned with grazing land during the coming winter season.

“We are concerned about grazing land during June and July, because it is a dry season,” said Zokwana.

“We do not know whether there will be enough grazing land,” he added.

The department plans to build more dams as a long term measure.

The looming food crisis, related in no small part to food inflation, expected to hit hard from August 2016, is another concern raised by the department.

Zokwana admitted that possible food hikes will propel the department to work with the Department of Social Development to provide relief to those who cannot afford food.

According to Zokwana, South Africa needs to import six to seven million tons of mielies this year to feed its citizens.

However, he said, this figure has dropped after the January rains.

“The figure has dropped to three million tons,” he said.

The minister said he does not yet know how the department will deal with the food hikes, but said his department will not run away from assisting farmers.

Khoabane said the province will provide the drought relief budget following the provincial budget speech.

The Free State head of Rural Development and Land Reform, Pule Sekawana, said his department has allocated R84 million for drought relief.

This amount was allocated for the next two financial years.

The department donated 600 bags of fodder to emerging farmers in Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo and Bloemfontein.

The minister explained that although departments will prioritise emerging farmers based on need, commercial farmers will also get support from government after being assessed.

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