South African president sparks further land reform debate
Food security and fair land distribution continue as points of contention in South Africa with critics questioning the feasibility of government planning.
South African president Jacob Zuma revisited the topic of land reform on Monday, igniting debate about the feasibility of the government proposal.
He told the African Farmers Association of South Africa at a gala dinner, “To achieve further success, smallholder farmers require a comprehensive agribusinesses support package including favourable commodity pricing, access to finance, provision of technical expertise and mentorship, and contracted markets.”
The proposal, which seeks to integrate emerging farmers and the black population into commercial agriculture, received criticism for lacking adequate preparation and fairness.
A particularly controversial element of the proposed reform seeks to limit government costs by asking commericial land owners to cover part of the balance of the plan. Although details of the plan have not been worked out yet, it has been proposed that land be sold to new farmers at 50% of market value, with the remaining 50% covered by local commercial farmers.
Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, told www.freshfruitportal.com, “The president said [the remaining cost] can be in cash or in kind. We don’t know what they meant by in kind, what an in kind contribution would be. You can make an in kind contribution but you still need money to pay the salary of the land.”
Möller said that although the plan seeks to distribute costs over a broad spectrum, it is not fair to ask fellow local farmers to bear the cost of a plan undertaken in the public interest.
He urged better financial planning and a clear audit to determine regional need and land values. He also supported the use of local committees to determine land reform needs per district.
In part of its reform goals, the government aims to make a 30% land transfer from the white minority to black emerging farmers.
President Zuma stated Monday night, “In 2009, we made a commitment to transfer 30% of the 82 million hectares of agricultural land which was white-owned in 1994 to black people by 2014. This 30 percent translates to 24.5 million hectares. Between 1994 and December 2011, 3.9 million hectares were redistributed through the land acquisition and redistribution programme. We have learned a number of lessons from the exercise.”
A major lesson, the president said, has come from learning just how long redistribution of a particular piece of land can take, which may increase costs and decrease productivity.
The current redistribution debate comes at a time when food security also rings as a point of contention in South Africa. President Zuma said that land reform must be considered when discussing food security.
“The current state of affairs within the agricultural sector in South Africa is one where commercial and smallholder agriculture co-exist, the one sector being predominantly white and the other sector being predominantly black. Commercial agriculture is currently producing 90% of the agricultural output. It is estimated that it consists of about 37,000 members,” he said.
Zuma identified the main goals of the recapitalization program as food production, food security, commercialization of small farmers and creating employment opportunities.
Möller questioned the ability to promote security given the current course, stating to the press that the funding proposal “fails to take into account whether or not a fellow farmer has the financial means to make such a contribution. For many medium to small farmers it may be an unfeasible proposition which could subject them to an uncertain future.”
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