JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa is to set aside 1.2 billion rand ($64 million) to help small-scale farmers in a bid to support food production amid a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The country, which has the highest number of cases in sub-Saharan Africa, has reported more than 1,500 infections and 9 deaths so far, and now faces a near-certain deep recession which could hit vulnerable farmers.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development said it would focus the funds on poultry, other livestock and vegetables but would evaluate applications on a case by case basis.
“The department has ring-fenced 1.2 billion rand for assistance to mainly target financially distressed small-scale farmers,” Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, said on Monday.
South Africa’s agricultural industry has both commercial producers and small-scale farmers, which often supply food and employment in their communities and are critical to ensure food security.
Farmers who qualify for assistance would need to meet certain criteria including having South African citizenship, being active in farming for a minimum of 12 months and being on the farmers’ registry.
South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown on midnight on March 26, with people restricted to their homes and most businesses shuttered.
Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg. Editing by Jane Merriman