R1.2 bln disaster fund targeted at smallholder and communal farmers: Didiza

Thoko Didiza
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Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza has released details on how the R1.2 billion COVID-19 disaster fund intervention in the agricultural sector will be allocated.

Didiza says the fund is aimed at ensuring food security as the country battles coronavirus. The fund is targeted at smallholder and communal farmers with an annual turnover of R20 000 to R1 million. Didiza says funding will be prioritised for women, youth and people with disabilities. She has called on qualifying farmers to apply for financial assistance.

“Last week I indicated that the department has allocated R1.2 billion for small scale farmers in our response to increase production. I also indicated that I will pronounce on the details of this allocation. Today therefore I am pleased to announce that the application forms for this funding will be open from 8 April 2020. That is Wednesday this week and will close on the 22nd of April. It has to be noted that no application will be accepted after the closing date.”

Minister Didiza says the funding does not cover mechanisation, infrastructure and other overhead costs.

“Also farmers who are preparing for the 2020 summer production season will not be supported because they will not be going on production immediately. The aim is to secure food for the next coming six months while the country deals with COVID-19. Farmers who are currently receiving support through other programmes of government and entities are also not going to be supported for this allocation that I’ve just mentioned.”

In the video below, Agriculture Minister says South Africa is well supplied with food:

Didiza says R400 million of the R1.2 billion COVID-19 disaster funding has been ring-fenced for farmers with a proactive land acquisition strategy. She says the rest of the money will be channeled to the rest of the farmers under a specific set of criteria.

She says government will offer support for winter crops and livestock maintenance.

“Firstly the commodities that were identified to be supported as follows: in the poultry for the day-old chicks point of lay, feed, medication. On vegetables; the seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and soil correction. On fruits; the final spraying programmess for avocado, apples, table grapes and wine grapes. So some of those would require some last spraying and this is what we are supporting.”

In the video below, Minister Didiza briefs the media on her department’s COVID-19 interventions:

The Agricultural Services company that assists small scale farmers, FarmSol, has welcomed the Minister’s announcement.

“Interventions supporting smallholder farmers are really welcomed and we really appreciate such a relief provided by government. But also it is important to ensure that the relief impact farmers positively through the procurement of correct cultivable seeds and the sole correct intervention as the Minister has mentioned. So it’s very important and actually it’s very welcomed in this time that we are in today,” says FarmSol Chairperson, Aaron Kole.

The organisation represents over 800 small scale farmers.