Wandile Sihlobo. Picture: SUPPLIED
Wandile Sihlobo. Picture: SUPPLIED

About 660 emerging black farmers based in the Free State are set to benefit from a multimillion-rand training initiative formed by the Jobs Fund and the Sernick Group.

Sernick successfully applied to the Jobs Fund in 2016 during its seventh funding round, scoring R165m of grant funding and a R100m loan, which it matched with R237.6m.

The fund had called for proposals on industry change for "scaling inclusive job creation models". Sernick pitched its initiative, described as a "comprehensive intervention" that will recruit, train, capacitate and provide them with opportunities to be integrated into Sernick’s value chain.

Emerging farmers (50 in all) who did exceptionally would be given an opportunity to acquire shares in the yet to be established Sernick Wholesale.

"These farmers will, through an Emerging Farmers Trust, be granted a 20% share ownership," said the head of the Jobs Fund, Najwa Allie-Edries.

She said the emerging farmers the programme was targeting were primary producers who often had poor farm infrastructure, poor-quality herds and limited access to finance, market and technical assistance.

The fund said it had recognised the biggest hurdles faced by emerging farmers, which included access to land and the skills the programme offered.

"Through this initiative and partnership with Sernick, emerging farmers will benefit from the transfer of technical skills, which are required to enable them to breed their own cattle and manage their herds in a commercially sustainable way. By improving the quality of their herd they would be able to secure higher prices in the market either by selling to Sernick or other buyers. By having shares in Sernick Wholesale they would have access to established local and international markets," Allie-Edries said.

Although the programme will be run by Sernick, the participating farmers would still be able to trade with other businesses to generate revenue.

The head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agbiz, Wandile Sihlobo, said public-private partnerships in the agricultural sector were applauded as they led to the much needed transfer of skills, the lack of which resulted in entrant producers and farmers being unable to access markets.