The South African government has plans to help small-scale farmers face the impact of coronavirus on their activity. South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown on midnight on March 26, with people restricted to their homes and most businesses shuttered.
The government announced $64mln (R1.2bn) in financial assistance to farmers on Monday in an attempt to strengthen the sustainability of the food chain, but stressed that there still is enough food for everybody despite panic buying.
This follows last week’s announcement of the R1.2 billion COVID-19 disaster fund intervention in the agricultural sector, as a response to assist small-scale farmers. According to Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, the money will assist the most vulnerable producers.
Didiza said the sectors to be targeted include poultry, livestock and vegetables. Other commodities will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Farmers who qualify for assistance would need to meet certain criteria including having South African citizenship.
She said the qualifying criteria for farmers are that they must have been actively farming for a minimum of 12 months and currently in the production season or cycle.
They must be registered on a farmer register, commodity database or provincial database, but unregistered farmers will be registered when they apply.
Communal farmers will also qualify for aid as well as smallholder farmers with an annual turnover between R20,000 and R1-million, Didiza said.
The investment targets poultry, livestock, and vegetables. Applications would be evaluated on a case by case basis. This measure is hailed by observers who argue that farmers were the minor beneficiaries of funds allocated by the government.
About 1.2 million black producers are engaged in subsistence agriculture in South Africa. Inadequate infrastructure remains an obstacle to small-scale farmers, the majority of whom live and farm in rural areas.
South Africa’s agricultural industry has both commercial producers and small-scale farmers, which often supply food and employment in their communities and are critical to ensure food security.