Desperate farmers turn to debt counsellors

2016-01-19 17:40

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Bloemfontein – Cash-strapped farmers are seeking help from debt counsellors, a Bloemfontein counsellor has revealed.

The debt counsellor, who wished to remain anonymous, told News24 that the drought had caused a lot of financial stress for farmers.

Farmers reportedly have their highest-ever debt of more than R125bn with South African banks.

The news comes as the drought continues to wither maize fields and discourage the planting of crops.

"We have had a few farmers approach us because the drought has really affected them dearly," the debt counsellor said.

He said the biggest challenge for farmers was cash flow.

"Most farmers have taken loans from microlenders and other institutions and, because of the drought, they are struggling with payments."

He urged affected farmers to get in touch with institutions they owe money to as a matter of urgency and make arrangements to adjust their payment schedules.

"The problem is not going to go away," he warned.

A microlender in the Free State, who also did not want to be named, said it was within their rights not to loan money to farmers in distress.  

"We do not loan farmers money because they do not have a steady income. Our business is to make a profit. We understand that farmers need help, but the probability of a loss is too high with them," he said.

Meanwhile, the founder of the Facebook page Boere in Nood (Farmers in Need), NC Schoombie, said the government was not doing enough to help commercial farmers in distress.

Members of the group have been hard at work, hauling hay and other cattle feed to farmers who have already resorted to feeding mielies that died on the stalk to their starving animals.

Schoombie said just 3% of mielie farmers in drought-stricken areas had planted this season, and those who had planted had watched their crops go to seed once they reached waist height.

However, hay and alfalfa donations were arriving at the organisers' depot in Bloemfontein from the Eastern and Western Cape, and from areas where farmers had irrigated fields.

The group had received donations from far and wide and was using the money to pay for diesel, truck rentals and to buy feed where it was being sold cheaply.

Read more on:    bloemfointein  |  drought

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