Huge Congo deal for SA farmers
Pretoria - Agri SA has welcomed the signing of a farmland deal between South Africa and the Republic of the Congo.
SABC reported AgriSA deputy president Theo de Jager as saying on Wednesday that the deal would give South African farmers access to up to 10 million hectares of land in the Congo.
This would allow South African farmers to lease land for maize, soy beans, poultry, dairy cattle and other produce.
The agreement means the road to the Congo had been opened for South African farmers, De Jager told the public broadcaster.
The Congo imports 95% of its food and with more than half of the country's population concentrated in the two major cities of Brazzaville and Point Noire, it made sense to exploit the vast tracts of virtually uninhabited land for farming.
The Congolese, however, lacked farming skills and this was where AgriSA was able to step in.
It said 200 000 hectares of state-owned farms which had been abandoned had been made available to South African farmers.
SA farmers under pressure
Congolese agriculture minister Rigobert Maboundou said this was part of the country's New Plan of Action, in which the development of agriculture was a pillar.
He said the agreement would also contribute to the global food security problem.
AgriSA said with growing pressure on South African farmers, it made sense for them to expand their operations into Africa.
De Jager said AgriSa was caught between the national objective of transferring 30% of agricultural land to black hands as well as the urge to be net exporters of food.
Farmers leaving South Africa could also mean a threat to the country's food security.
As De Jager put it, last year South Africa was for the first time a net importer of food but that had been turned around and now the country was a net exporter of food. However, that situation was on a knife edge.
The Congolese government said it had signed similar agreements with China, Brazil and Israel.- SAPA