Over 15k farmers to receive financial help from government

The department announced the R1.2 billion Agricultural Disaster Fund in early April to help farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.
The department announced the R1.2 billion Agricultural Disaster Fund in early April to help farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown.

The department of agriculture and land reform says over 15 000 farmers have been approved to receive over R500 million from the Agricultural Disaster Fund. This financial is aimed at ensuring that South Africa does not add food insecurity to its woes as the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has put more than half of the economy at a standstill.

The department announced the R1.2 billion Agricultural Disaster Fund in early April to help farmers cope with the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. On Sunday, the minister of agriculture and land reform, Thoko Didiza said it received over 55 000 applications between 8 and 22 April but only 15 036 were approved.

Didiza said the department will finalise its decision on the remaining applications in the next week but there is a sizable chunk that was not successful. Those who were successful will be notified and given their vouchers from tomorrow, 18 May 2020.

Help on the way for subsistence farmers

"A majority of the farmers who were not successful, they were not making a turnover of about R20 000 annually which was our minimum threshold.

"The second one was that some of the farmers could not produce the documentation that shows that they are operating in a particular piece of land. Actually, we had no sense that those farmers are actually farming anywhere," she said.

Didiza said given the need among farmers who fell below the department's threshold of between R20 000 and R1 million in annual turnover, different spheres of government will meet in the coming week to look at how best they can support this category of farmers, majority of whom are subsistence farmers using communal land.

Of the approved applications, Didiza said the Agricultural Disaster Fund will assist mostly livestock farmers who account for over half of approved applications or 7 696 farmers. Together with poultry and vegetables growers, the three farming categories will receive 88% of the approved R500 million.

Outside of the Agricultural Disaster Fund, Didiza said a further R400 million is being channelled to farmers within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy – one of government's land redistribution projects. Didiza said this R400 million was already approved for the department’s Stimulus Package, ahead of Covid-19, as they had initially been budgeted for in the 2019/2020 financial year.

There will be other opportunities to apply

While the April application window focused mainly on helping livestock farmers and those who produce winter crops, Didiza said the department will also assist summer crops farmers.

"It doesn't mean we are not going to assist those who fall on the agriculture calendar for summer crops. When the time comes, necessary announcements will be made," she said.

She said while the Agricultural Disaster Fund's focus was on winter crops, government has been helping wine farmers, table grape and other fruits farmers, allowing them to continue with their harvest under level 5 of the lockdown.

"In my view, government has made sure that our wine farmers don't lose the market that they have for their produce internationally," she said.

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