The national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development has cautioned farmers to be on high alert for scammers posing as department officials. Fraudsters are now trying to trick applicants for the presidential economic stimulus initiative (PESI) into paying for the processing of their applications.
Only 14 000 small-scale farmers were successful in their applications.
According to the department, criminals are now phoning hopeful applicants for the PESI scheme and informing them that they have been approved, then asking them to deposit sums of money into bank accounts.
“As the department we continue to ask our farmers always to be cautious of the scammers out there. They must always check the information they receive with their nearest offices of the department,” Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the department told Food For Mzansi.
While the presidential economic stimulus initiative is yet to be finalised, farmers should take note that no payment is required for their application to be processed or approved. The department said that it will communicate with the selected farmers using official email accounts.
A troubled PESI process
The PESI scheme has been in the spotlight since its unveiling by minister Thoko Didiza in December 2020.
Last year, more than 75 000 subsistence farmers were invited by government to apply for farming input vouchers which could be used at vendors selected by the department.
However, an array of issues was reported. First, minister Didiza had to extend the validity of the vouchers on two separate occasions following administrative woes in the roll-out that kept farmers from accessing the inputs in time.
This was followed by farmers inundating the department’s offices with complaints about the exorbitant fees they were being charged when buying goods with the PESI vouchers.
Desperate farmers furthermore illegally traded their vouchers for money, and the department told Food For Mzansi that it would clamp down on farmers found guilty of such actions.
Further warning of tricksters
In an unrelated matter, the department of trade, industry and competition (the DTIC) has alerted the public to a fake advertisement currently circulating on social media platforms and farmer WhatsApp groups.
In the advert, a bogus consultancy claiming to have the support of the dtic encourages women to apply for an agricultural women’s empowerment fund for start-up support to the value of R700 000.
“Beware: No connection or relationship between the dtic and this company or advert,” the department said in a recent tweet.
Farmers are advised always to double check with the local offices of relevant government departments or organisations before handing over money to individuals.
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