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Farmers receive COVID-19 relief fund

More than 15 000 small-scale farmers have been approved for the coronavirus (COVID-19) Agricultural Disaster Fund, says Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza.

The Minister recently briefed the media on the outcome of the Agricultural Disaster Fund application process.

Minister Didiza said that 55 155 applications were received from smallholder and communal farmers, with the highest number of applications received from the Eastern Cape Province, followed by the Northern Cape and North West.

The R1.2 billion fund intervention aims to address the effects of coronavirus disease and ensure sustainable food production post the pandemic.

“To date, 15 036 applications have been approved, valued at just over R500 million in favour of smallholder and communal farmers. Of the 15 036 approved applications, 5 494 are women, 2 493 youth and 224 people living with disability and males at 9 542,” said the Minister.

Speaking at the virtual briefing, Minister Didiza said livestock has been the most requested commodity by farmers, followed by vegetables, poultry and fruits.

“Each of the approved farmers will receive inputs in line with the size of their farming operations up to a maximum of R50 000,” said the Minister.

The application process opened on 8 April and closed on 22 April 2020, with 33 000 manual application forms distributed through the department’s provincial and district offices, commodity and civil society organisations. She added that the department will finalise its decision on the remaining applications.

R400 million allocation

The Minister said a further R400 million is being channelled to farmers within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), who were already approved for the department’s Stimulus Package.

This had initially been budgeted for in the 2019/2020 financial year.

“It must be noted that an amount of R600 million had to be reprioritised from the Stimulus Package on PLAS farms in the 2019/2020 budget to assist the other smallholder and communal farmers in terms of this COVID-19 intervention.

“The issuance of vouchers to provinces will commence on 18 May 2020. The department engaged the services of different suppliers through an open Supply Chain Management process to avoid any delay in the delivery of these inputs,” she said.

Minister Didiza highlighted that there was a number of lessons learnt from the process, which will require government and the sectors, especially commodity groups working with small-scale and subsistence farmers, to build on.

Among others, the department has noted the lack of proper documentation or filing of documents by famers.

“It saddens me that during this process many of them fell by the sideway because they could not provide proof that they are farmers or farming. The registration of farmers on the Producer Farmer Register will enable government to locate farmers so that targeted support can be provided,” the Minister said.

She also urged farmer organisations to assist farmers in formalising their operations, especially insofar as record keeping is concerned.

The Minister emphasised that monitoring and evaluation of this programme is important to ensure value for money and food production. Therefore, the department will work with various non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations to monitor and evaluate the implementation of this intervention on the ground.

“Through this intervention, we want to ensure that agricultural production continues to ensure food security for the country. Food is being produced at farm level and deliveries are made to wholesalers, retailers, fresh produce markets and other critical distribution points.”

“We urge the food value chain role players to strictly comply and adhere to strict health regulations to contain and arrest the spread of COVID-19 as we strive to supply food to the nation,” Minister Didiza said.   – SAnews.gov.za