Small-scale farmers in need of financial support will be able to apply for assistance from Wednesday, when the Department of Agriculture’s R1.2 billion Covid-19 relief package opens applications.
To qualify for the relief an applicant must be a small-scale or communal farmer, with an annual turnover of between R50 000 and R1 million and a South African citizen who has been in operation for at least one year and is currently in the production season.
All farmers should apply good farming processes and be registered on the Producer/Farmer Register and commodity or provincial databases. Those who aren’t will be registered upon application.
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza said the fund will prioritise providing relief to women (who should make up at least 50% of the beneficiaries), young farmers (who should account for 40%) and at least 6% disabled people.
Around R400 million of the fund will be ring-fenced for farmers on the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy land reform programme.
The remaining R800 million will be channelled towards farmers in a limited selection of commodity sectors such as:
- Poultry: Day-old chicks, point of lay chickens, feed, medication and sawdust
- Other livestock: Feed and medication
- Vegetables: Seedlings, fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction work.
Didiza said other sectors will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. She clarified that the wine industry, which is harvesting now, will not be disturbed, while food distribution relating to importing and exporting of goods has not stopped.
She also made it clear that the money will not be issued to help farmers pay their debt; it is meant to go towards operational costs.
“It is also important for me to indicate that this intervention is excluding mechanisation, infrastructure and other overhead costs.
“This is not comprehensive support but an intervention package with regard to the challenge that the country is facing,” said Didiza.
Farmers who are preparing for the 2020 summer production season will not be supported, and those receiving assistance through other government programmes are also disqualified from this programme.
“The aim is to secure food for the next … six months while the country deals with Covid-19,” she explained.
Didiza said commercial farmers will be covered by the R100 million facility at the Land Bank for farmers in financial distress who already have loans with the bank.
“I know that there are financial institutions who have actually made some arrangements to assist those farmers and other businesses that are in distress during this period,” said Didiza.
South Africa is currently producing enough food for citizens and the current interventions will ensure that supply is not severely impacted over time, even as international trade is disrupted due to the pandemic, said Didiza.
“We would like to reiterate that there’s no need for panic buying, as such buying only serves to create artificial food shortages in our supply chain and unfortunately in some instances, this may result in unnecessary food hikes.”
Applications for relief will be available on the department’s website and will close on April 22.