State intervenes over idle farms
Johannesburg - Government has set aside R254m - equal to 25% of the total budget allocated to rural development and land affairs - to resuscitate 200 non-productive commercial farms it handed over to emerging farmers.
During a media briefing of cabinet's economic cluster, Minister of Rural Development and Land Affairs Gugile Nkwinti confirmed this is in line with government's new approach to land redistribution.
In the last 15 years the state has bought and redistributed 5.9 million hectares of farmland, but Nkwinti said about 90% of this is no longer productive.
As a result, Nkwinti said government's emphasis is no longer on reaching the target of redistributing 30% of all agricultural land by 2014.
Aside from the fact that government does not have the money required (R71bn) to meet this target by the prescribed date, the focus is on giving emerging farmers the support they need to get the best use out of their newly-acquired farms.
"We want to balance acquisition and use of those hectares with food production," said Nkwinti, who added government would also be working closely with the Land Bank to find ways to rescue redistributed farms (over and above the 200 farms earmarked for resuscitation) that the bank was planning to put up for auction.
Nkwinti, however, warned that those who did not make a decent attempt of their farming concerns would lose their farms.
"If they do not use the land we will take it," said Nkwinti. "Aside from the money the state spends on acquiring the land, when farms are not productive it also costs the state revenue. No country can afford this."
Nkwinti has promised to release a Green Paper by the end of May detailing government's overhaul of land reform and land tenure policy and legislation.