The DA welcomes the relaunch of blended finance by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) through the Agri-Industrial Fund in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The aim of the fund is to provide economically viable agri-processing projects in the agriculture sector as an opportunity to scale up their projects. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, her Department is going to provide R1 billion over 3 years to be matched by IDC finance instruments over the same period.
This fund must however not be allowed to follow in the wake of several such projects in the past where many farmers were left unaided after approaching the listed institutions that were supposed to provide them with the necessary grants.
Programmes such as AgriBEE and the Agri-Processing Support Scheme were also launched with great hype by DALRRD and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTI) respectively to intervene in the agri-processing investment leveraging programs. These programs raised farmers’ hopes, but when they needed assistance however, they failed to receive the required support due to corruption, red tape and the incompetency of people tasked to help them.
The DA remains concerned that the Land Bank, despite receiving a bailout of R7 billion, is not included in this programme. This could mean that the Bank would soon be going back to National Treasury to request further support. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni should have embraced Minister Didiza’s call to the Land Bank and other commercial banks for partnership and used this opportunity to do away with the bailouts. It is a great concern that the main shareholder of the Land Bank lacks interest in this.
The DA does not support the uncoordinated approach of grant support to emerging farmers. Unless there is proper consultation and proper coordination at cabinet level, farmers who rely on government support are going to suffer.
The ANC government must follow the DA Western Cape government public/private partnership model where the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (Casidra) and the Western Cape DALRRD partner with the private sector to create a one stop shop at each commodity group level that is equipped with individuals who understand agricultural finance and extension services.