Land redistribution shouldn't destroy food security - farmers

Johannesburg -  Commercial farmers have warned that the redistribution of land should not interfere with food security, calling for the process to be conducted in a controlled and legal manner.

Speaking on Wednesday at a forum to discuss the economic impact of land expropriation without compensation, commercial farmers said they recognised the need to uplift emerging farmers as a tool to address land dispossession and prevent conflict.

Grain SA said it hoped a solution to the redistribution of land could be reached, urging the state to allow farmers who worked on government-owned land to buy it back.

“We believe that support measures could be developed and applied to keep the land in production,” said Grain SA CEO, Jannie de Villiers, suggesting that financial institutions should provide services  with “special land reform finance products”.

The organisation, which represents grain producers, called for more productive use of fallow land in a bid to assist emerging farmers.

De Villiers said there should be incentives for new partnerships between current commercial farmers and new entrants, as part of a government-backed solution to the land issue, in order to enable the programme to achieve the intended results.

The decision to expropriate land without compensation was taken by the ANC at its 54th Congress in December last year, where Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC president.

In February,  Parliament adopted a motion to investigate the feasibility of land expropriation without compensation, prompting jitters among land owners and commercial farmers. 

The proposal would require a review of section 25 of the Constitution.

"The number of commercial farmers has decreased over the last couple of years, because farmers are not re-investing in their businesses,” said Brian Whittaker, Managing Director at Vumelana Advisory Fund.

He said the lack of investment was due to uncertainty over ownership.

Some delegates attending the two-day dialogue called for the establishment of a land ombudsman to oversee the redistribution process.

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