New Great Trek ‘is no threat to SA’s food supply’

The Great Trek in South Africa started in 1835 when over a time span of three years more then 12,000 Boers (farmers) left the Cape Colony.

Business Day 2010/12/20


SOUTH African farmers moving to neighbouring African states are not putting SA’s food security under threat, says Willie du Plessis, a director of agricultural banking at Standard Bank.

The new "Great Trek" meant that more land could be farmed commercially in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), while land becoming available in SA would assist the government in its land reform programme, he said.

Mr du Plessis said neighbouring countries were welcoming local farmers because of the expected expansion of the African market.

"SA and its farmers hold the key to these issues … we have the continent’s most developed and sophisticated agricultural skills and we have a track record of passing on our knowledge to other Africa countries," he said.

"We also have the continent’s most sophisticated agricultural and commercial infrastructure, including the financial institutions … which are geared to support primary food production as well as up- and downstream agro-processing.

"All of that insight and capacity is going to be vital to both bringing African agriculture into the global mainstream and preventing African agriculture being colonised by non-African players."

China — which is investing large sums of money in buying arable land in Africa — has been approaching South African farmer organisations over exchanging research capabilities and investment funds for South African farming skills.

Agri SA president Johannes Möller said the number of invitations to South African farmers to lease land in neighbouring states had been increasing.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was the first African country to invite South African farmers, a few years ago, offering a 105-year lease for them to go into maize, soya, poultry and dairy production.

Since then, Mr Möller said, at least 22 African countries had done the same, with a land deal recently proposing to lure about 800 South African farmers to start operations in Mozambique.

"We believe the volume of these kinds of offers will escalate and that where infrastructure and local conditions are conducive, South African farmers should consider them." Mr du Plessis said this would benefit not just South African farmers but the entire world.

Agri SA said it was looking after the farmers’ interests by ensuring that legislation was conducive to migration and relocation.
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