15 000 farmers get vouchers from relief fund

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza says over 15 000 farmers have thus far successfully been approved and received vouchers from the Covid-19 agricultural relief fund.

Didiza’s department in Apri, announced that financially distressed small-scale farmers who had an annual turnover of between R20 000 and R1 million would be able to apply for financial assistance to keep their businesses afloat amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The R1.2 billion intervention package by the department was distributed via vouchers, and successful applicants would be able to exchange the vouchers for goods at certain retailers and cooperatives.

“We have actually approved about 15 000 plus farmers who were successful. They have received their vouchers and they are already good to go.

“But some of them have faced difficulties because suppliers have not anticipated the numbers of people who would have wanted certain inputs at a particular time, so there was a delay. And so we made an extension to the end of September so that people can still redeem those vouchers,” Didiza said.

Among the farmers who mainly qualified for the fund were those who needed aid with poultry farming, fruit, feed, and medication for livestock.

Didiza said the department had worked hard to ensure it did not lose crucial farmers in its system during the pandemic.

“With the R100 million that we announced for commercial farmers… the Land Bank last week on the 24th [August] released a call for applications for those farmers which will come to an end, at the end of September so they can see how they assist commercial farmers in distress, as a result of Covid-19,” she noted.

The Land Bank had gone further to say that beyond the R100 million, they would look into rescheduling farmer’s loans and potentially allow repayment holidays so that small-scale farmers would have time to adjust to the new normal.

Among the farmers that were hit from the time the country moved to lockdown level 5 were those dealing with tobacco leaves because processors were not willing to buy, due to limitations on selling tobacco products.

The minister indicated floriculture was also affected because there were not enough events taking place and they could not export to foreign markets.

“So it has been uneven in the various sectors of our economy, in terms of the impact to the various sub-sectors of agriculture,” she added. -Citizen