South Africa Sets Aside 1.2bn Funds for Farmers in Coronavirus Pandemic

  • South Africa – The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development announced plans to set aside 1.2 billion rand ($64 million) for small scale farmers during coronavirus
  • Applications will be evaluated on a case by case basis, and farmers who qualify for assistance would need to meet certain criteria
  • South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 1,500 infected persons and 9 deaths so far.

South Africa – The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development has set aside 1.2 billion rand to assist local farmers in producing food during the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 1,500 infected persons and 9 deaths so far, President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a 21-day total lockdown on the 56 million inhabitants that has seen most businesses shut down and restricted people to their homes. However, despite the coronavirus pandemic, farming and agricultural processing which are considered an essential service are exempted from the 21-day lockdown. As a result, the farmers of South Africa have been urged to support their people and country in these times of need and turbulence.

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The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development said it would focus the funds on poultry, other livestock, and vegetables but would evaluate applications on a case by case basis.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, “The department has ring-fenced 1.2 billion rand for assistance to mainly target financially distressed small-scale farmers.”

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza

Thoko Didiza also added that applications will be evaluated on a case by case basis, and farmers who qualify for assistance would need to meet certain criteria including having South African citizenship, being active in farming for a minimum of 12 months and being on the farmers’ registry.

South Africa’s agriculture sector has over the years seen a move towards large-scale intensive farming, as well as a shift from the production of low-value food crops, such as wheat and milk, to high-value export products, including deciduous fruit, citrus, and game. As a result, the country became a net importer of food for the first time in 2008. Between 2010 and 2011, the value of agricultural exports increased by 10 per cent, from US$4,630 million to US$5,100 million. In 2011, citrus fruit, maize, wine, grapes, apples, pears, and quinces were the most important export products in terms of value.

As the country’s population grows by almost 2% every year, the need for food production has drastically increased over time and actually needs to be double the size of the population in order to feed the masses. Due to this, production needs to increase using the same or less natural resources. The coronavirus pandemic is also not helping matters as the food industry and regulators change continually policies as they grapple with empty shelves, a glut of fresh produce and milk, and sudden shifts in consumer buying habits.

It won’t be an easy progress for South African farmers, but all the small changes will add up over time and eventually change for the better – for both the country and the people thereof!

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