Blended finance fund for black farmers relaunched

Tomorrow, ministers Thoko Didiza and Ebrahim Patel will bring good news for black farmers dreaming about commercialisation. The much-anticipated blended finance programme is back in new format, promising a mixture of grants and commercial funding

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The blended financing programme aimed at addressing the challenges of black farmers who are unable to gain access to funding will officially be relaunched by ministers Thoko Didiza and Ebrahim Patel tomorrow.

Food For Mzansi can now confirm that Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, will on Thursday, 18 March 2021 at 10:00 join forces with Patel, minister of trade, industry and competition, to unveil the programme.

Trade, industry, and competition minister Ebrahim Patel. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Trade, industry, and competition minister Ebrahim Patel. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Through the programme, farmers will gain access to a mixture of government grants and commercial funding.

The programme, now known as the Agri-Industrial Fund, will be launched in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

Didiza’s department confirmed that the fund aims to support the development and expansion of the agricultural sector.

The department told Food For Mzansi that it will assist qualifying, black producers in developing, expanding, acquiring and integrating operations in prioritised value chains.

‘Affordable finance in real time’

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Among other goals, it is envisaged to accelerate land redistribution, increase exports and contribute towards economic growth and job creation.

During an earlier discussion during the International Women’s Day celebrations hosted by Corteva Agriscience and the GIBS Business School in Johannesburg, Didiza expressed her excitement over the anticipated launch.

ALSO READ: ‘Be deliberate about supporting women in agriculture’

“We think this will enable entrepreneurs, particularly woman entrepreneurs to get affordable finance in real time,” the minister said in the address live-streamed by Food For Mzansi. She noted the concerns raised about the Land Bank’s financial woes and reaffirmed that finance minister Tito Mboweni intended to re-capitalise the bank.

Lessons learnt from past issues

Last year Food For Mzansi reported on the fate of disgruntled farmers who had suffered losses due to the blended financing programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2018 economic recovery plan speech.

The programme, which was meant to facilitate the commercialisation of 450 farmers, instead left many black farmers exposed, with their businesses at risk.

Farmers demanded answers from about long delays and empty promises that characterised the earlier process. They also wanted clarity on why government officials, who served on the programmes committee, were at the front of benefitting.

Food For Mzansi can now also confirm that the qualifying criteria for the Agri-Industrial Fund has been adapted. According to Didiza’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, the long delays which characterised the programme would be a thing of the past.

ALSO READ: Black farmers left out to dry by blended finance programme

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