Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The government may extend its black industrialist programme to include black commercial farmers, a process that would be managed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in collaboration with the Department of Rural Development and the Land Bank.

A proposal for such a programme — which Department of Trade and Industry director-general Lionel October said would be allocated R1bn of reprioritised funds — will be taken to the Cabinet within the next few weeks. It expects to fund 50 black commercial farmers in each province, ultimately reaching 450 farmers.

In an interview on Friday, October said the model of the black industrialist programme had proved successful, which was why the government wanted to replicate it.

It was also being strengthened through new partnerships with banks and retailers to broaden access to finance and markets.

The black industrialist programme itself has been accelerated, with the Department of Trade and Industry targeting the creation of 100 black industrialists by the end of the financial year. So far 46 industrialists have been created under the programme, which provides a maximum grant of R50m to the individuals.

"The biggest problem experienced by industrialists once they have been given a grant is access to the market. Woolworths has agreed to put products such as K9 pet food range on their shelves," October said.

Other retailers would be brought into the net, he said.

October said a partnership with First National Bank (FNB) was also in the works. If it was successful, it would be rolled out to other financial institutions. In addition to access to finance, FNB would direct its clients to the Department of Trade and Industry for consideration as future grant recipients.

The department, headed by Minister Rob Davies, is due to sign a pledge of co-operation with FNB for the black industrialist programme on Tuesday.

October said that the programme would also extend to provinces. A memorandum of understanding was recently signed with KwaZulu-Natal for it to begin identifying prospective industrialists.

October acknowledged that the processing of applications for grant funding under the programme took up to six months and needed to be sped up. Davies hoped to reduce that turnaround time to a period of three to four months.

The adjudicating committee consists of representatives of the department, the Industrial Development Corporation, National Empowerment Fund, Land Bank and the Public Investment Corporation.

There is also a technical committee that pre-screens the applications and conducts  site visits.

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