Use land reform – or lose it

The government must take back farms from land reform beneficiaries who do not use the land productively.

This is according to Eastern Cape rural development and agrarian reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane. He was speaking at a post-policy speech business breakfast event at EmaXesibeni (Mt Ayliff) yesterday.

Qoboshiyane said some farms redistributed through land reform were not being used optimally.

The state has spent R1.6-billion since 1994 on land reform.

“This can’t be happening under an ANC government,” he said.

Some beneficiaries were renting out farmland to small-scale farmers.

“Some of these farms don’t operate, the veld is overgrown. People just brag about owning farms because of the prestige. But the prestige of owning a farm must come through working the farm and producing to feed the nation.

“If you fail to do so then go back to the government and say ‘renounce my contract – I’m not adding value to this sector’,” he said.

Qoboshiyane lamented the high cost of farmland. “We spend a lot of money to buy land but the cost has increased astronomically, making it difficult for the state to fast-track land redistribution,” he said, adding that black and white farmers should talk openly about land reform.

Qoboshiyane was responding to a call by emerging farmers that the state should re-evaluate the land reform process and some beneficiaries.

He urged small-scale farmers to use their land productively, as concerns like Boxer Superstores and food distributor McCains wanted to source Eastern Cape produce.

McCains, he said, wants 60000 tons of potatoes from the province.

Young people should be at the forefront of farming as the current crop of farmers was aging.

“Young people must go back home and identify vast tracts of arable land … ask for fencing and seeds.

“Migrating to Johannesburg must come to an end. We want an Eastern Cape green platinum belt,” he said.

Qoboshiyane’s department has a budget of R2.4-billion for 2017-18.

He said while the province was leading the country in terms of cattle herd size, quality was a problem. “Hence we decided to set up fodder banks for the first time. When the drought comes, we won’t have to buy lucerne in the Northern Cape, where transport and markup costs are high.

“We have land and unemployment here. Young people can even take two hectares and produce fodder.”

Qoboshiyane said premier Phumulo Masualle had allocated an additional R20-million towards youth development in farming.

Citing Argentina, which he visited last year, he said that agricultural production in that country was enough to feed 10 times more than their 41million population.

Yesterday’s event was held in partnership with the Daily Dispatch. — DDR

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