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Farmers need skills, finance

A SHORTAGE of skills and inadequate access to markets and finance remain the biggest barriers preventing the growth of small farmers, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) said yesterday.

Rian Coetzee, head of Agro Industries in the IDC, spoke to Sowetan on the sidelines of the International Finance Corporation Conference on Small and Medium Enterprise Access to Finance, held at the Santon Sun Hotel yesterday.

Coetzee said for any small farmer to get into an agricultural project they needed skills.

"You need to know what soil qualities are required, what type of seeds you need or you will need somebody to assist you, which could be a cooperative or a government institution," Coetzee said.

"Market access is a requirement that enables you to sell your product. If you are a grain farmer you should know where you will sell, so that you don't grow by chance."

The third area of concern is access to finance, he said.

"If you do not have money you cannot do anything. The biggest problem is that farmers do it year by year, trying to get funding from family members to continue.

"But one needs to put a long-term supporting mechanism for smaller farmers to be sustainable over time."

He said that the IDC's main focus in the agricultural sector is assisting small farmers with access to markets while the Land Bank focused on the primary agricultural finance.

"We fund the agro-processing sector such as the mills, the pack houses and processing of plants. We try and ensure that there is access to markets for smaller farmers.

"We have a scheme that encourages them to source grain from local farmers, specifically black farmers.

The IDC is spending R4billion assisting farmers and plans to spend another R5billion over the next five years to create jobs.