The Previously Disadvantaged Commercial Farmers Union (PDC) chairperson Jane Kuhanga has bemoaned the Agribank Covid-19 relief package, saying that conditions attached to the measures are a major impediment in aiding farmers.
Agribank’s chief executive officer Sakaria Nghikembua recently announced a set of Covid-19-related relief and stimulus packages to qualifying farmers.
This includes an amount of N$200 million in loans to be disbursed to farmers who are affected by the pandemic.
He declared a 12-month payment holiday for current loan holders, starting from 1 June 2020 to 31 May 2021, further encouraging those who can continue paying their instalments to do so.
At the time, Nghikembua explained that these measures are aimed at boosting the agricultural sector during this hard time and to improve productivity.
However, Kuhanga in a recent media statement acknowledged the government’s efforts to assist the agricultural sector but said they discontent in the manner the decision such as relief measures were considered by the agricultural bank. “The conditions to qualify for Agribank Covid-19 relief are simply unrealistic,” Kuhanga said.
She said Agribank is making unrealistic payment demands for farmers to partake in a government relief programme. “The bank is forcing the farmers into liquidation. We request all those conditions to be reviewed or removed altogether, it will serve the purpose at the very least for a 24 months-instalment grace period. Agribank is demanding cash from the farmers, at the time when that capital should be invested in the production capacity to maximise the yield that will enable all farmers to meet their financial obligations to the bank,” she said.
Also, she said the interest rate on the loans makes farming an extremely high-cost venture, especially for them as previously disadvantaged farmers.
“Perhaps we should all be asking what is the real weighted average cost of capital of the agricultural bank to justify such high interest?” she questioned. She said it is the farmer’s humble opinion that action is most opportune to preserve the gains of land reform and redistribution achieved so far, as the country chart a new path of creating a more sustainable commercial farmland redistribution base for previously disadvantaged Namibians. “As our economy gradually feels its way to the “next normal” that is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic which has curtailed demand, created new volatility in the Agri markets, I reiterate our commitment to engage the key stakeholders, Agribank, GRN, and other players on this as a matter of urgency to try and find an amicable solution within the context of the ongoing review of the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS),” Kuhanga said.
2020-06-23 09:35:55 | 19 days ago