by ANNA NTABANE
MBOMBELA, (Mpumalanga Guardian) – THE Mpumalanga Provincial Government is bothered by the low response among local farmers to funds allocated by the government to cushion the industry from the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Authorities are consequently planning to make an appeal to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs to extend a deadline set for applications.
The deadline for farmers to submit their applications was Wednesday (April 22).
A total of 3 047 forms were distributed to the farming community in Mpumalanga but the relevant provincial department only received 754 completed forms.
Vusimuzi Shongwe, the Member of the Executive Council (MEC): Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, disclosed plans to appeal to Minister Thoko Didiza for an extension of the deadline.
“The information at our disposal is that most farmers, especially small scale ones, have delayed submitting their forms because they have been struggling with some requirements like getting certified copies of their identity documents (IDs) and their accounts from banks,” Shongwe said.
He attributed the sloth in the response to the ongoing national lockdown to halt the COVID-19 spread.
Shongwe highlighted the lack of records or good record-keeping by some farmers as another factor causing the delay.
“Some farmers do not have supporting documents to prove annual turnover. Others are struggling to get the necessary documents due to the lockdown,” the MEC said.
Shongwe encouraged those without records to apply in the meantime.
“It is up to the minister to decide but I know that as a government we have no intention of leaving anyone outside,” he concluded.
The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced numerous measures to keep Africa’s most advanced economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 65 lives from more than 3,600 cases in South Africa.
Agriculture, as an essential industry, is spared the lockdown that has seen other industries shut.