The Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU) is seething with anger. This comes after the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza announced the outcomes of the COID-19 Disaster Fund.
“Minister Didiza’s declaration that the financial support must ensure food production is thus a blatant lie,” said President of TAU Louis Meintjes.
TAU made wild claims that the department was using the disaster fund as a voter buying exercise project.
“The minister should be honest and admit that the department is merely supporting subsistence farmers who are predominantly ANC supporters. If the goal is to ensure food production for the country, her department should assist commercial farmers – who are effectively responsible for South Africa’s food security – as well” Meintjies continued.
Minister Didiza had announced that her department received over 55 155 application with 15 036 applications approved, valued at R500 million.
According to the department, the fund was meant to provide stimulus relief package to subsistence and smallholder farmers.
“Of the 15036 approved applications, 5 494 are women, 2 493 youth and 224 people living with disability and males at 9542. Livestock has been the most requested commodity by farmers, followed by vegetables, poultry and fruits. Each of the approved farmers will receive inputs in line with the size of their farming operations up to a maximum of R50 000,” said Minister Didiza.
Yet, TAU was not convinced of the Minister’s response.
“According to StatsSA, the contribution of this group of farmers to the national food basket is only 1,9%. One would then expect additional food to be available as a result of the grant, yet the minister is silent in this respect” added Meintjies.
TAU claims seemed devoid of any research backing and charged that commercial farmers were being neglected in the list of applicants.
The Human Sciences Resources Council (HSRC) research on ‘the contribution of subsistence farming to food security in South Africa’ proved conclusively that subsistence/smallholder agriculture could play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of rural and urban food-insecure households, improving livelihoods, and helping to mitigate high food price inflation.
The intervention by the Minister, post COVID -19, is said to undoubtedly assist in improving subsistence production.
The Minister urged farmer organisations to assist farmers in formalising their operations, especially insofar as record-keeping is concerned.