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'Farmers must be proactive' says Agriculture MEC

Helen Matene could possibly lose her De Deur farm.
Helen Matene could possibly lose her De Deur farm.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

Gauteng MEC for agriculture and rural development Lebogang Maile says emerging farmers in the province have to learn to stand up and find opportunities on their own to compete commercially.

Maile said the department provides a variety of support to farmers, which include seeds and equipment.

"Access to markets is not the responsibility of the government. The government can help and facilitate. The farmer must also think outside the box and be creative," he said.

"There's quite a few things that we do including [helping] people [to] supply government with food. For instance, in the department of education, we feed 1.1-million kids every day. Farmers must go out and find out who is supplying the department and what is being supplied. They can't sit at home and say I don't have market access, the government must go and create it .We have been working with retail outlets like Pick n Pay and have agreed that fresh produce must be supplied by township-based entrepreneurs and all that.

"It is not easy for anyone. A farmer must also try their level best. If they can't raise enough money to pay, they must make arrangements. This is not a bank, it is a government institution. We can always renegotiate the terms."

He was reacting to a Sowetan story published last week in which a black farmer in De Deur, south of Johannesburg, received summons from the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) after failing to repay R11 2000 of the R20 2000 loan she received from the agency.

The farmer, Ellen Matene, was worried that GEP would ultimately obtain an order from the high court that would allow the agency to repossess her farm in order to recoup the money she owes. But the GEP said it was not its intention to repossess the farm but that it just wanted Matene to pay back the money.

Maile said the responsibility to pay back loans obtained from the GEP was the farmer's. "There is a grant called Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme but obviously there is a process for that. We help more than 3000 farmers in Gauteng. There is a process where people apply and we help them with irrigation, fencing, boreholes, inputs and all that."

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