SA, Congo close to huge land deal
Pretoria - South Africa could by the end of this month reach agreement on a land deal with the Republic of Congo, with some farmers expected to visit Congo early next year to identify farm land, a farmers' group said on Thursday.
South Africa has one of the most developed agricultural sectors on the continent and its farmers are looking to expand into other countries.
The deal - part of Congo's plan to improve food security by allowing South African farmers to lease land for up to 105 years to grow maize, soya beans as well as for poultry and dairy - will be one of the biggest land agreements on the continent.
"We have just closed the final matters on individual contracts between farmers and the Republic of Congo's department of agriculture two weeks ago," Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager told a news briefing on Thursday.
De Jager also said South Africa will explore more farming opportunities in Mozambique's Gaza province. Some 800 commercial South African farmers were already farming in Mozambique.
Not a true reflection
South African farmers have so far received land offers from 22 countries across Africa.
But lack of bilateral agreements between South Africa and some countries had discouraged farmers from investing.
Investment at home has also slowed owing to the uncertainty over the land reform programme, meant to hand over 30% of farm land to black majority by 2014.
The government said last year it had managed to transfer 6% of land to blacks and said it will introduce new ways to speed up the process.
But de Jager said government's figure was not a true reflection of what was on the ground as more land has changed hands through private deals.
"A lot of land also belongs to trusts and firms and we have to look at their composition, who has shareholding in them," he said.
De Jager said South Africa needs an updated database on land ownership, which should also show ownership by race.