Cheating tractor farmers to be blacklisted

The Minister of Agriculture Christiaan De Graff has told parliament that they will blacklist tractor farmers who charge extra fees to farmers in the ISPAAD programme.

“We have no arrangement with farmers to charge extra fees on top of what we are offering them, on Thursday I addressed a kgotla meeting and the farmers complained about the same issue. We will not engage them in the next ploughing seasons. I will issue a press release to warn those tractor owners, they have asked for an increase and we increased form P550 to P800,” he said.

Member of Parliament for Shoshong Dikgang Makgalemele had wanted the minister to answer to complaints of cash deposits demanded by tractor owners for diesel under the ISPAAD programme. He said the tractor owners’ arguments are that they do not have cash for fuel.

De Graff told parliament that they have appealed to farmers to help them curb the practice by reporting the perpetrators.

De Graff told Gazette Business that most have been paid especially those who started in the ploughing season.  “The ISPAAD budget increased from P200 million to P250 million in the last season because we have now extended assistance to commercial farmers and emerging farmers. Because of good rains this year, more fields have been ploughed. We have extended a cut off time for planting for both North and South from January 30th to February 22nd because of the frost and winter which will come early and will need additional funds,” he explained.

He said his ministry asked for an additional P40million which has also been exhausted, meaning they will need further additional funding this financial year to pay the outstanding balances to tractor owners.

The MP further asked what interventions the ministry intends to do to assist tractor owners to buy diesel upfront , which De Graff responded that , “we have made an agreement with National Development Bank for farmers to get subsidized loans, therefore farmers should get this seasonal loan from the bank to buy diesel upfront. We pay the difference between the market rate and the prime rate and the farmers pay the other rest of the money.”

The Minister’s response on Friday follows his presentation to the Committee of Supply for the financial year 2014/15 on Thursday where he proposed for P968million for recurrent budget for the financial year 2014/15 and a development budget of P720million.

Part of the budget, ISPAAD programme will need a sum of P320 million and it is the major expenditure item for the Ministry. “Spending under this programme is on-going with more being expected from ISPAAD as ploughing season has just ended. I therefore anticipate that by the end of March 2014, the total expenditure level will approximate 100 percent, “he indicated.

Nonetheless, the Minister said they still expect more rain to come and good yields.