The validity of covid-19 disaster support vouchers issued by government to small-scale and communal farmers has once again been extended due to supply chain disruptions and administrative delays.
The vouchers, that can be used with specified suppliers to buy agricultural inputs, will now remain valid until the 30 September 2020.
This is the second time that Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, has extended the validity of the vouchers. The initial validity period had been set to the 30th of June, but this was later extended to the 31st of July to mitigate reported administrative woes in the roll-out that kept farmers from accessing the inputs in time.
In a media release, the minister explains that the latest extension comes as a result of supply chain disruptions and delayed voucher printing which have made it difficult for farmers to redeem vouchers needed to access production inputs in the market.
A total of 14 000 small-scale farmers were successful in their applications for funding. A total of R500 million in the form of support vouchers has since been distributed amongst beneficiaries of the relief scheme.
The scheme was first announced in April and promised to alleviate the struggles of small-scale producers amid disruptions resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic. By the end of June farmers had reportedly begun receiving their vouchers to the sum of about R50 000 each.
The process of accessing inputs however proved to be tasking for some. In July frustrated farmers approached Food For Mzansi and shared their experiences. Some complained that the prices of inputs were hiked exorbitantly by vendors selected by government to honour the vouchers.
“I have noted that there are still challenges on the ground being experienced by both farmers and suppliers when it comes to the availability of some production inputs such as day-old chicks and seedlings, as well as errors picked up on some vouchers which relate to incorrect ID numbers and incorrect allocation of production inputs,” the minister elaborates.
Didiza has also encouraged her department to identify applicants who were “erroneously disqualified” and make sure that these farmers are also provided with agricultural inputs.
“I have considered all these challenges and decided that it would be prudent to extend the validity period to 30 September 2020 to allow suppliers to build adequate stocks of production inputs and farmers to redeem their vouchers,” Didiza adds.
Further information on the extension of the validity period and names of more than 14 000 successful applicants will be available on the departmental website at www.dalrrd.gov.za “as soon as possible” in order to encourage transparency.