Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, has said her department would allocate R1 billion to support 75 000 small-scale farmers around the country whose production was disrupted by Covid-19.
Briefing reporters in Pretoria on Monday morning, Didiza said the announcement was in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announced employment stimulus to create jobs and support livelihoods as the pandemic continues to rage on into 2021.
The pandemic has seen food prices rise in recent months, with the poorest customers hit the hardest. Didiza said while the agricultural sector was negatively impacted in general, subsistence and household producers remain the most affected.
“These are producers who utilise land in the backyards of their homes, gardens in communal areas, all of which are more or less the size of a soccer field. It is these producers who create a bulwark against the fight of food insecurity at household level,” said Didiza.
Didiza said small scale food producers are often defined as un-bankable by the financial sector, but that they continue to play a vital role in providing food security for families in our country.
Didiza said more than 75 000 subsistence producers will be supported with farming input vouchers, to retain self-employment and support food value chains, while the department employs unemployed youth and agriculture graduates to work as verification officers.
Didiza said the Presidential Stimulus Package for subsistence producers is aimed at sustaining and increasing employment in the agricultural sector.
“Subsistence farmers must note that the type and quantities of support provided will be limited to the commodity applied for and the size of the current operation physically verified on site. The amount of support will range between R1 000 and R9 000,” she said.
Department official Clinton Heyman said the department was confident that it had systems that were able to process as much as double the amount of applications which will ultimately be approved.
“Within that scope that we have, we believe we can deal with 150 000 applications and deal with the costs effectively,” said Heyman.
Acting Deputy Director General Kokotsi Moeng said the intervention was a critical means of protecting the most vulnerable South African households from increases in food prices.
“Food prices have escalated and would have escalated exponentially if the minister did not intervene and monitor those food prices closely,” said Moeng.
Didiza said Ramaphosa’s youth employment initiative will support the creation of jobs in excess of 6 000 temporary jobs, adding that applications will open on 10 of December and will close on 22 December.