South African deciduous fruit industry organization Hortgro says it supports ‘meaningful, sustainable and economically viable’ land reform in the agricultural sector as a means to include previously disadvantaged agriculturists.
Land reform in South Africa has recently emerged as a dominant and potentially explosive issue.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on July 31 announced plans to amend the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
“It is vital that previously disadvantaged individuals get the opportunity to fully participate in the economic growth of our sector in order to stabilize our country for many generations to come,” said Hortgro chairperson Nicholas Dicey.
He described the matter as a ‘highly emotive issue’ for many South Africans and said that land’s productive use ‘needs to be recognised.’
“All custodians of agricultural land should strive to increase the value it offers to themselves, the agri workforce and the country as a whole,” he said.
“We need to get the right people on the land through the right processes and provide them with the right support services. Land reform should therefore be implemented in such a way that it leads to viable and sustainable businesses.”
Dicey further called for constructive engagement on all levels between the state and the private agricultural sector.
“The current irrational public debate via the media is not helpful,” he said.
“There are opportunists on both sides of the spectrum that are playing with the future of our country. This blatant populism should be countered by a meaningful process with sustainable solutions.
“Hortgro supports a legal process worthy of our Constitution and all stakeholders should show ethical and fearless leadership in this regard.”
He added that ‘constructive and honest’ dialogue between the two sides could enhance land reform in the fruit industry.
“There is not a magic formula for land reform, but there are numerous examples of successful projects both on an individual and collective basis.
“We should focus on these successes, internalise it and replicate it elsewhere. We have so much potential. Success will breed success.”
Agri SA ‘deeply concerned’
Earlier this week, farming organization Agri SA said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the recent comments made by African National Congress (ANC) Chairperson Gwede Mantashe.
It said Mantashe suggested that a limitation on land ownership should be implemented on white farmers owning more than 12,000 hectares. He further suggested that these farmers should hand over the remainder of their land to the government without compensation, the group said.
“This statement is irrational and not carefully considered,” said Dan Kriek, president of Agri SA.
“A one-size-fits-all approach goes against established agriculture principle as commodities and farming practices differ in land use. Different crops or animals require different size farms to be financially feasible. A 12 000-hectare farm in the Karoo would barely be sustainable.”
It added that broad proposals aimed toward expropriating property without compensation will have a negative impact on food security and increase food inflation.
“A land ceiling will cut property values,” said Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl.
“When land prices drop significantly, production credit will become prohibitively expensive. Banks will have to write off billions of Rands; agriculture has an estimated R160 billion loan book.”