PESI vouchers continue to be a thorn in the flesh of several farmers.
While some farmers complain that they were overlooked, some recipients are said to be selling these vouchers for cash, and others are being overcharged by suppliers.
A farmer from Gauteng, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the process was not fair this time around.
“At least last year they were doing farm visits to gather information on what are you farming and if you’re indeed farming. However, this year vouchers were given to even those people who were selling vouchers last year, people who do not even have a dog to look after,” said the concerned farmer.
He said vouchers are given mainly to people who are not in farming or who have 10 indigenous chickens.
“Some have received R8500 worth of the voucher and as a result they don’t know what to do with the remaining amount after buying 4bags of chicken feed. These are the people who are conformable with what they have and don’t think of expanding their flock and turn into a business like many of us,” he says.
He added that some suppliers were taking 27% and some extension officers told them that it was an agreement of the department and the suppliers. Some had prepared price lists of items you can only take.
“If what you wanted to buy was not on the list, you’d be told that you can’t take such and such. “Some already had secret meetings with stores and prices were increased to suit suppliers and stores,” said the farmer.
The farmers said that in his view, this kind of assistance just demotivate and frustrate farmers because there’s no truth in them.
“Suppliers that are appointed don’t even own stores, they are not even involved in farming so theirs is to make profit and the department is too far from them to make such observations.
A female farmer from Gauteng, who also wished to remain anonymous, called the PESI process “painful one”.
Although she said she doesn’t have any knowledge of those who sell vouchers, she did, however, receive complaints from fellow farmers who are being overcharged when they went to redeem vouchers.
“This Pesi thing is so painful; you don’t even know the criteria they use. I think farmer organisations toned to intervene,” she said.
“Some farmers were given vouchers and were instructed to buy at specific stores where they are being overcharged. And another problem is that if the voucher is written seeds or seedlings they are forced to buy whatever that is on the voucher even if they don’t need them anymore.
“Remember these vouchers sometimes come at a time when people have already planted, so you might at that particular time of receiving the voucher, be in need of fertilizers, chemicals or something else, but they don’t allow them to switch items,” she said.
The farmers urged the department to addresses these issues as a matter of urgency.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) is warned those misusing the vouchers.
The Department said it had noted with concern, reports of allegations regarding the misuse of vouchers which were issued to support subsistence producers, as part of government interventions to address challenges affecting farmers resulting from the COVID – 19 Pandemic.
“The PESI programme was initiated to address the high rate of unemployment whilst also seeking to sustain self- employment for subsistence producers,” said the department in a statement.
The Department said it had received reports of the misuse of these vouchers which include the sale and exchange of these vouchers for cash which defeats the initial purpose for these vouchers; which is the purchase of production inputs
“There are suppliers who continue to charge additional costs towards the redemption of these vouchers. Suppliers further arrange with input retailers to charge subsistence producers up to 50% additional costs for rendering no service at all as these vouchers are redeemed directly from the retail shops.
“All suppliers provided prices when they entered into contractual agreements with DALRRD and those are the prices that should be charged,” said spokesman Reggie Ngcobo.
Subsistence producers exchange information on social media to sell vouchers to their friends, neighbours and even to suppliers.
The Department says it condemns these activities and officials are working on a process to deal decisively with these fraudulent acts.
“Suppliers are warned not to charge extra % costs on the vouchers as this will lead to their blacklisting and they could also be charged without further engagements or deliberations.
“Subsistence producers (farmers) who are caught selling or using the vouchers for purposes other than those for which they are intended, will be barred from receiving any other government support.”