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Emerging farmers plead with Land Bank

Mbombela - Emerging black farmers in Mpumalanga have called upon the Land Bank to provide financial services to them, too and not exclusively to commercial farmers.

The farmers were responding to a statement made by the bank last week that the government has approved a R1.5bn guarantee to the bank following the Fitch ratings agency's upgrade of its national long-term rating.

“The mandate for the bank is to provide financial services to commercial farmers and make available new designed financial products that will facilitate access to finance to new entrants to agriculture from historically disadvantaged background," said African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) spokesperson Lethu Mthethwa.

"To be honest, as Afasa we are saying we don’t see this happening. Instead, it's only white established farmers that are benefiting from the Land Bank."

Hard times

Mthethwa said the bank was only rendering services to a few sugarcane farmers who were not happy with the service.

Land Bank spokesperson Congress Mahlangu said there were land bank officials who worked with emerging farmers, but he did not elaborate on how the farmers were being assisted.

Meanwhile, AgriSA spokesperson Kosie van Zyl welcomed the R1.5bn guarantee awarded to the Land Bank.

"We believe that more farmers will get assistance in these hard times.

"We know farmers sometimes struggle to pay back loans in time because of production challenges, but we are positive.

"We believe that emerging farmers should be assisted so that they can be commercial farmers one day," Van Zyl said.

Equally support

According to the Land Bank's statement, the guarantee was in addition to an existing guarantee of R500m.

In the statement, Mahlangu said that on 8 January Fitch upgraded the Land Bank's rating from AA on its local rating scale, indicating a quality company, to AA+, which is a higher endorsement.

“In July 2008, the administrative powers of the Land and Agricultural Development Bank Act 2002 were transferred to the minister of finance,” he said.

Land Bank chief financial officer Lebogang Serithi welcomed the move, saying it indicated that the government had confidence in the bank's implementation of its turnaround strategy.

“This will go a long way in ensuring that the organisation is able to respond adequately to its mandate and equally support the National Development Plan,” Serithi said.

By: Fin24