The President of the World Farmers’ Organisation and Chairperson of South African Agri Initiative (SAAI), Theo de Jager says the money set aside for farmers by the government for COVID-19 relief is not enough.
The department of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced that R1,1 billion will be used for emerging farmers, while R100 million is meant for distressed commercial farmers who have credit with the Land Bank.
De Jager says farmers need to pay for production, salaries for employees and other logistics during the lockdown.
He says, “We need much more than that, both for the smallholders and of course much more for commercial farmers to ensure that food pipes remain open and that the food value chain remains running.”
De Jager adds, “If we do not produce now if we do not plant now, there will be nothing to harvest and I know the minister is asking herself ‘where should the money come from? it’s way too expensive from what we can afford’, but let me tell you we have not calculated the cost of farming.”
Mpumalanga farmers to receive relief vouchers
Farmers in Mpumalanga that are making a turnover of between R20 000 and R1 million will receive vouchers not exceeding R50 000 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19.
MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs in Mpumalanga Vusi Shongwe announced the relief measures during a meeting with farmer’s associations in Ermelo.
The farmers raised concerns that include failure to pay labourers, transporting produce, not having permits and accessing markets during the lockdown.
They say some farmers have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Farmers’ associations also pleaded with the government to assist them with protective clothing in order to adhere with the new regulations.
AgriSA Provincial coordinator Jerry Mthombothi says the situation has left some farmers vulnerable.
“The farmers are facing a big problem because if the workers are not working, they are not supposed to get paid. So these people will have a big problem in supporting their families and farmers are not able to take their produce to the market if the labourers are not working”.