Cape Town - The departure of South African commercial farmers to other African countries is not a threat to local food security, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson
said on Tuesday.
"This will not be a threat to food security in South Africa; instead, this will enhance food security in the continent," she told journalists in Cape Town, at the end of a one-day International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) conference.
Asked whether she thought land reform posed a threat to food security, given reports that commercial farmers were leaving the country in large numbers, Joemat-Pettersson said such farmers should use South Africa as a base.
"We are not advocating the movement of farmers lock stock and barrel from South Africa... We want to encourage our farmers to maintain their base in South Africa... and then expand their business from here.
"In one aspect, we're encouraging them to set up... in other countries as a means of expanding their businesses.
"South Africa has skills it can share with other South Africans and with the rest of the continent," she said.
Last month, AgriSA reported that of the 120 000 commercial farmers in South Africa in 1994, only 37 000 remained.
AgriSA vice president Theo de Jager said at the time that South Africa was now starting to import grains such as wheat. It was also on the brink of importing meat and poultry, which was being produced less and less in the country.
Reasons for farmers leaving - to neighbouring states such as Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others - included new laws, unionisation and the threat of land reform.
Speaking at the start of the IFAD conference, Joemat-Pettersson said Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest incidence of rural poverty in the world, but there was a growing belief it could produce enough food to not only feed its citizens, but also export a surplus.
IFAD is a specialised agency of the UN. It was established as an international financial institution in 1977, with the aim of eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.
Among those who attended the one day conference - which looked at agriculture as a means of advancing economic growth on the continent, as well increasing world food security - are agricultural ministers from several African countries.
Joemat-Pettersson said African countries had been channelling more resources into agriculture, looking to increase such investments to ten percent of their national budget.
"There is growing belief that Africa could produce enough to not only feed its own citizens, but to export a growing surplus.
"Africa can make a real contribution to ensuring food security to the world while also growing its own economy and pulling its citizens out of poverty."
Earlier she highlighted what she called "bleak" regional statistics.
These included that in sub Saharan Africa more than three quarters of the poor - those living on less that US$1.25 a day - lived in rural areas.
"Sub Saharan Africa, with the highest incidences of rural poverty, is the region worst affected by poverty and hunger," she said.