Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

SA farmers in new scramble for Africa

South Africa is joining a ‘green rush” for the African continent. The Republic of the Congo has offered Agri SA 10-million hectares for South African farmers to produce maize and soya beans as well as to establish dairy and poultry farms.

Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA, says about 220 interested local farmers could soon be moving north.

Agri SA has approached the government to enter into an agreement with Brazzaville that ensures the safety of South African citizens and allows for the repatriation of capital and profits.

The idea is not to get farmers to leave South Africa but rather to allow them to diversify, says Möller. The food produced is intended to supply the Congo, whereas surplus produce will be exported to other markets such as the European Union.

The move takes place against the backdrop of an international rush for African land. Large tracts of land are being snapped up by cash-rich but resource-poor countries, as well as by countries struggling with the burden of feeding their swelling populations.

Whether it is land for food production, or as some reports suggest, for bio-fuels, alarms bells have begun to ring about whether this investment in African land is a threat or a gain for the continent.

A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute released in April highlights a ‘land grab” that has intensified since food prices hit all-time highs in 2007/08. Target countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria.

‘Food-importing countries with land and water constraints but rich in capital, such as the Gulf States, are at the forefront of new investments in farmland abroad,” the report notes.

‘In addition, countries with large populations and food security concerns, such as China, South Korea and India, are seeking opportunities to produce food overseas.”

The report states that although some of the deals allow for investment in rural development, they may not involve equal terms for both investors and local communities. And the management and conservation of water and land resources are endangered by indiscriminate investments.

Herbital Maluleke, an international trade manager at the Agricultural Business Chamber (ABC), says many African countries are cash-starved and very willing to take up the money offered by investors. ‘But these countries will need to look at how these deals will affect them to ensure deals are not simply another form neocolonialism,” he says.

There are advantages for host countries, such as technology transfer, foreign investment, access to credit markets and infrastructure development.

Maluleke says South Africa, and particularly its private sector, is actively doing business on the continent: several ABC members operate in countries such as Egypt, Uganda and Nigeria as well as across the SADC region.

Interests include financial services and grain storage. Every time South African businesses cross a border, says Maluleke, they take skills with them. ‘In terms of technical know-how and expertise we can compete with the likes of China and India and we have been doing business on the continent for a number of years so we have a head start.”

 

M&G Slow

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Young and jobless? Apply for one of 287 000 education...

Education department urges young, jobless people to apply for teaching assistant vacancies

Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to...

The National Arts Council vows that every cent from the sector’s Covid-19-relief programme will be disbursed to artists, after auditors uncover maladministration

Covid-19 vaccine mandates: a constitutional balancing act

South Africa’s laws allow the government to implement mandatory Covid vaccinations but, if it chooses this path, it must do so responsibly

Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a more rigorous mayoral selection process, which will involve the party’s top six
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×