Move to help small farmers

TOP PRIZE: MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane with overall farmer awards winner Venecia Janse. Picture: Supplied
TOP PRIZE: MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane with overall farmer awards winner Venecia Janse. Picture: Supplied

Deal with big retailers expected to boost jobs

By exposing small farmers to big retailers, the Eastern Cape Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Department hopes to create 10 000 direct and indirect jobs annually – while increasing the province’s GDP contribution by at least 2%.

Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said this yesterday as he rewarded 11 women farmers across the Eastern Cape with cash prizes and certificates for their contributions to agriculture.

The agriculture economic transformation strategy – which is hoped to push up the province’s struggling GDP – is the department’s latest solution to countering the declining number of commercial farmers in the province.

Speaking at the annual Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards at Coega Village, Qoboshiyane said: “The GDP of the country is not growing and has been [heading] downward since the first quarter of 2016 and the province’s agriculture value is very low at 5.5% when compared with others.”

Attributing the province’s low agriculture value to competitiveness, policy uncertainty and increasing production costs, Qoboshiyane said that he was mostly concerned about the dwindling number of commercial farmers.

The province saw a decrease from 6 000 to 4 000 between 1996 and 2007.

He estimated that this figure is as low as 3 000 today.

In the same period, the country saw a drop from 60 000 to 37 000 farmers.

“The reality of the situation is that between 95% and 99% of agricultural output is produced by commercial farmers,” Qoboshiyane said.

In an effort to help small farmers, he said they would be added onto the department’s database and their products would be graded before being supplied to Boxer Superstores, Nicks Food and McCain Foods.

While all Boxer supermarkets in the country are prepared to buy fresh produce from the Eastern Cape, Qoboshiyane said the province now needed more farmers to meet the new demand.

The farmer awards are aimed at encouraging and increasing the participation of women in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

During the ceremony, women empowerment songs were sung, with many people joining the winners on stage when they were called.

Oudrie farm owner Venecia Janse, 54, was close to tears when her name was called as the overall winner. She won R250 000. “I worked hard and prayed for the success of this farm,” she said.

“This is a big surprise and I will use this money to buy tractors and sprayers.”

Janse’s farm has been operating since 2012 in Louterwater near Joubertina.

She also won the top export producer category, scoring an extra R120 000.

Emmanuel Haven, a Motherwell NGO, received the MEC’s special award and walked off with R50 000.

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