Efforts made by the Eastern Cape Farmers Poultry Association (ECFPA) to address issues about the billion rand Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) are showing early signs of positive outcomes for poultry producers in the province.
Since the beginning of the year, farmers have been inundating the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development’s offices with complaints about the exorbitant fees they are being charged when buying goods with the PESI vouchers.
However, according to the ECFPA, they are making headway with the department about outstanding issues pertaining to the government support voucher.
The chairperson of the ECFPA, Mhlobo Mbane, states that as an organisation that cares about its farmers, they have taken up the issue of PESI with the authorities.
“We had a productive and progressive meeting with the department of agriculture, land reform, and rural development’s and also the provincial department of agriculture and rural development pertaining to PESI,” Mbane says.
This comes after the association called on its members to not make use of the voucher until it concluded efforts to sort out issues that have plagued the PESI scheme with the department.
According to Mbane he is hopeful for a positive outcome to the process within the months ahead. Yesterday [1 June] their association submitted an application to the department requesting that the prices of supplies be re-looked at.
“There was a tender document due yesterday for new suppliers. We are hopeful that the new listed suppliers will at least have better prices compared to the already existing suppliers,” Mbane states.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the department of agriculture, Reggie Ngcobo says the extension of the vouchers continue to be done on a month-to-month basis.
“The aim is to encourage farmers to continue to redeem their vouchers. Currently we are at 70% of vouchers redeemed,” Ngcobo says.
The PESI nightmare continues…
Meanwhile, the provincial department of agriculture has had their work cut out for them after almost all vegetable and livestock producers who are beneficiaries of the PESI scheme came forward with numerous complaints.
Butterworth poultry and vegetable farmer Nezisa Sogoni described the PESI programme as a “long and frustrating process”.
Months after she applied, farming friends who also applied for the government support voucher received confirmation messages of their success.
Sogoni says she grew worried and called her local office.
“I mean, at least they were supposed to send me a message informing me that I had been unsuccessful. When I called the officer told me that she would investigate it. Two day later, I received an SMS informing me that I had qualified along with the amount I was going to receive,” Sogoni says.
However, when Sogoni went to redeem her voucher at the government-appointed supplier, the prices for the poultry products she urgently needed were ridiculously high. She ended up using her voucher for watering cans, seedlings and fertilisers instead.
“The poultry prices were crazy. For a bag of feed starter, they charged me about R700 compared to the R400 it is usually sold for. Instead of getting two bags, you can only get one bag, so it doesn’t make sense at all,” Sogoni states.
Farmers paying through the nose
Meanwhile Tracey Michau, a dairy producer in the province, states that the PESI grant she received last year has been a total nightmare to redeem.
“Those awarded grants are forced to buy from their (government) supplier list. These suppliers are two to three hours away from Cradock. How are people with no transport supposed to redeem their vouchers? I won’t spend the fuel to drive that far,” she states.
The other major problem, Michau says, is prices being hiked up to three times more than what they should be.
For example, a small lucerne bale now costs Michau R213 after traveling more than three hours. While 4km away, she could have bought the same product for just R70.
“The middlemen say they are supposed to take 27% and i am left with R1900. They told me that the things they brought cost that amount.”
She adds that when she complains to the suppliers about their pricing, she is told that the prices were set by the department.
“Who is stealing the money then? These PESI grants awarded to mostly youth and women were a great initiative, but they are useless to most people, and I can guarantee most won’t even redeem them, as it is impossible.”
Not all are unhappy though
But not all PESI beneficiaries are dissatisfied. Gladys Khupari, an urban vegetable farmer from Johannesburg says she is not complaining despite only being able to use R1900 of her voucher valued at R2600.
“They (middlemen) say they are supposed to take 27% and I am left with R1900. They told me that the things they brought cost that amount.
“At least I got something, and it is for free. I don’t have to complain even if they didn’t bring the other things I wanted,” Khupari states.