Home on a distant range


It isn’t the start of another Great Trek but significant numbers of South African commercial farmers are seeking new or additional opportunities elsewhere in Africa and even in Georgia in the distant Caucasus.

Although life is increasingly tough for SA’s farmers they aren’t abandoning the productive farms they’ve built up over generations.

The exodus, they say, is to expand business interests, improve profitability and share their farming expertise.

AgriSA deputy president Theo de Jager says 24 African countries have either invited AgriSA to send farmers to them or are already hosting some.

‘‘There are about 1 500 farmers we know of in foreign countries, of which more than 1 100 are farming in Mozambique and Botswana.’’

AgriSA has also been approached by Canada, Romania, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

‘‘In SA farmers don’t really have anywhere to expand to,’’ De Jager says. ‘‘Water is scarce and is increasingly being polluted.’’

In addition farm murders and proposed legislation to tighten expropriation powers and security of tenure for farm workers and their families contribute to the uncertainty in agriculture.

But the biggest motivating factor is money. In Mozambique, for example, there’s no duty on imported equipment, electricity costs about a tenth of what it costs in SA and water is free.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, offers greater stability than African countries and the opportunity to own land, says Transvaal Agricultural Union official Henry Geldenhuys.

He and colleagues have visited Georgia to investigate opportunities.

This budding democracy, which emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union, imports about 80 per cent of its food and is interested in SA expertise, Geldenhuys says.

Read the full article in YOU, 2 June 2011. CLICK HERE to follow us on Twitter.

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