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SA farmers secure more Mozambique land

Nov 11 2010 18:30 Sapa

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Pretoria - About 800 South African commercial farmers have already signed land deals to expand production in Mozambique, ahead of a conference next week to discuss other possible opportunities in the Gaza province.

Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager said the expansion to other countries was important, especially in managing typical commercial issues like livestock and disease.

"Our borders are fading out...Intergrated Africa is a reality," De Jager said on Thursday.

Agri SA will attend the conference in Mozambique's Xai-Xai region together with the South African government, to discuss the expansion of production activities to that country.

South African farmers have received new land offers to grow crops in over 20 countries.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is among the countries which early last year extended an invite and has signed an agreement to lease 200 000ha of land to South African farmers.

However, De Jager said farmers still viewed Mozambique as a pilot project.

"We have just closed the final matters on individuals farmers, between farmers, (the) DRC and the department of agriculture two weeks ago," he said.

"We are still waiting for the state advocate to come up with final documents. We should be able to accompany the first farmers to that country early next year."

The move was seen as a way of bringing expertise to the DRC and reduce its dependence on imports.

White farmers have reacted unfavourably to the ANC government's land policy, saying it was forcing them to seek land abroad.

Commenting on the government's land reform green paper, De Jager said farmers felt uncomfortable with government's intervention in the land market.

According to the rural development and land reform ministry, the green paper seeks to redress the shortcomings of the land distribution programme that has left many farms unproductive in the hands of beneficiaries.

"What went wrong in land reform was not due to faultiness in the market - it was because of lack of capacity in the department itself," he said.

"The department and the ministry have acknowledged major problems relating to fraud, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, poor planning and execution. The land market has no problem, the problem was with the execution."

De Jager said it came as no surprise that the senior officials in the ministry had been replaced.

"It's the right way to start."

Earlier, the union highlighted its support for black South Africans' purchase of land for farming.

The number of black emerging commercial farmers around the country was estimated to be 700.

There was, however, currently no system of determining how much land was in the hands of black or white farmers.

De Jager said a database was being developed to help in this regard.

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