Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza on April 6 said agricultural production continued to ensure food security in South Africa and reiterated that there was no need for panic buying as it only served to create shortages in the food supply chain and result in unnecessary food price hikes.
She also announced that the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development had allocated R1.2-billion for small-scale farmers in government’s response to increase food production during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Minister said applications to access the funding would open on April 8 and close on April 22.
Application forms are available on the department’s website, as well as through local and district offices of the department. Applications can also be lodged electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of the R1.2-billion, the department has ring-fenced R400-million for farmers with a proactive land acquisition strategy, while the remainder of the funds will be channelled to farmers that meet certain other criteria.
The commodities that the department has identified to be supported include day-old chicks, point of lay, feed, medication and saw dust, within the poultry industry; while on the vegetables side, the department's foci for funding include seeds, fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction.
In fruits, funds will be directed to farmers on last spraying programmes in fruits now being harvested, including avocados, apples, table grapes and wine grapes.
“Livestock farming we will support with funding for feed and medication to ensure that we maintain animal health. Around winter field crops, the fund will be used for fertiliser, soil correction, seeds, herbicides and pesticides.
“The qualifying criteria for small farmers include that they must be South African citizens who have been actively farming for a minimum of twelve months. Farmers currently farming must be registered on the provincial farmers’ register or commodity databases, or an agricultural organisation,” Didiza explained.
She added that those farmers who were not registered could be registered at the point of application for the fund, but must still have been actively producing farmers for at least 12 months.
The fund is primarily targeting farmers in communal areas, or traditional areas, with a yearly turnover of between R20 000 and R1-million.
“The applicant farmers must be using good farming practices,” the Minister pointed out, adding that it was vital that the soil was preserved for further production and that the environment be protected.
The Minister further noted that the fund would give preference to women, youth and people with disability.
“The fund is not a comprehensive support strategy, but an intervention to address the challenge the country is facing.”
Farmers preparing for the 2020 production season will not be supported, because they will not be producing immediately.
“Farmers currently receiving support through other programmes of government are also not going to be supported for this allocation,” Didiza said.
She added that the allocation granted to farmers was not intended to assist with the payments of debt. Through the Land Bank, there was a R100-million facility available to assist farmers in distress related to debt payments.
In responding to questions during a media briefing, Didiza said the fund’s assistance would not be in the form of cash, but in vouchers for relevant retailers where farmers could get the inputs they need for their production.