Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza announced in a briefing on Sunday that 15 036 applications have been approved for the R1.2 billion Covid-19 Agricultural Disaster Fund.

Those not approved had failed to prove land tenure/ownership or did not meet the minimum threshold of R20 000 turnover per annum.

The main objective of the support is to enable farmers to complete the current production cycle in an effort to ensure adequate food production and supplies. Intendend beneficiaries are smallholder and communal producers with a turnover between R20 000 and R1 million per annum, with the following targets: 50% women, 40% youth and 6% people with disability.

The funding is a grant, and the voucher system will apply in partnership with distributors and manufacturers, and will not exceed R50 000 per farming operation.

The relief fund aims to help smallholder and communal farmers to complete the current production cycle amid the negative effects of lockdown, with the aim of ensuring sustainable food production beyond the pandemic.

Didiza said the value of applications approved is over R500 million.

“Livestock has been the most requested commodity by farmers, followed by vegetables, poultry and fruits,” she added. “Each of the approved farmers will receive inputs in line with the size of their farming operations.”

Didiza highlighted that most applications came from the Eastern Cape, followed by the Northern Cape and North West. Approved applicants included 9 542 males, 5 494 women, 2 493 youth and 224 people living with disabilities. The department is due to finalise the remaining applications in the next week.

Lessons learned

Didiza highlighted that there were several lessons learnt from the process, which government and various sectors, especially commodity groups working with small-scale and subsistence farmers, will build on.

It was noted that 30% of the applicants lacked the proper documentation or filed their applications incorrectly.

“It saddens me that during this process many of them fell by the [wayside] because they could not provide proof that they are farmers or farming,” said Didiza.

“The registration of farmers on the Producer Farmer Register will enable the government to locate farmers so that targeted support can be provided.”

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

Those who missed the application deadlines are advised to visit their nearest Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development office for information of other funds available for assistance.

Other funding

The minister added that a further R400 million is being channelled to farmers already approved for the department’s stimulus package within the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS), as they 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,” Didiza said.

She added that the issuing of vouchers to provinces will begin on May 18. The department has engaged the services of different suppliers through an open supply chain management process to avoid any delay in the delivery of this support.

Ensuring food security post Covid-19

Didiza said the department will work with various NGOs and civil society organisations to monitor and evaluate the implementation of food production in the country.

“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,” Didiza said.

“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.”