The national Dept of Agriculture (Dalrrd) has suspended the implementation of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (Pesi) voucher system with immediate effect. This is because of ongoing issues with the running of the scheme, according to the department.

The Pesi voucher system was introduced as part of the government’s support for subsistence farmers as a result of the Coronavirus lockdowns.

The idea was that recipients would receive an electronic voucher that they could use at selected suppliers to buy inputs necessary for their particular farming activities.

Early on, problems began to be identified, such as voucher holders approaching suppliers, placing a small order against the voucher and demanding that the balance of the voucher be paid out in cash.

Also, certain middlemen emerged, prepared to take vouchers off the hands of recipients in exchange for cash.

And, sadly, certain dealers inflated their prices for qualifying products when presented with a Pesi voucher, meaning that the subsistence farmer received very much less product than would have been the case in a normal commercial deal. Some of the inflationary prices were ludicrous. In one example given by a beneficiary, lucerne bales that normally sell for R75-00 were being sold for R280-00 and poultry grower for R600-00 a bag.

The department says it “has received endless complaints from the … beneficiaries and the South African community at large.

“These implementation challenges cannot be left unattended. The department is reviewing, re-engineering and redesigning the Pesi implementation.”

Beneficiaries have been urged to check their cellphones for messages sent by the department from time to time.

The suspension is with immediate effect which will, no doubt, leave those small farmers who had factored their vouchers into their operations’ budgets, in the lurch.

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