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January 31, 2009

South African farmers interested in Congo

Hundreds of South African farmers have shown interest in farming in the Congo, Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager said on January 29. "I am replying to e-mails on a full-time basis now. Requests for more information are just pouring in," said De Jager. He said he had received more than 500 emails since last weekend. De Jager expressed surprise at the number of farmers from the Free State and Northern Cape area who had made enquiries.

"It's maize and sheep country (Free State and Northern Cape) and that does not correlate with the agricultural conditions in the Congo, which surprises me."

Many of those enquiring are South Africans farming in America, New Zealand and other African countries.

De Jager said foreigners who had farmed in South Africa previously, were also interested while a number were South Africans and Zimbabweans who farmed in the Congo previously but left during the riots of 1997.

"They all would like to investigate the possibility of farming in the Congo."

De Jager said Agri SA received a formal invitation from the Congo to send a fact-finding mission, through South Africa's representative in Brazzaville, on Thursday.

"They want a group of us to visit as soon as February already."

De Jager said the Congo wanted farmers to produce sugar, maize, soy beans, coffee and tea, and farm cattle and goats. Many farmers wanted to know about security, the South African government's relationship with the Congo government, education and labour laws, before making the move. They also wanted information on agricultural trade contracts already in place and anti-dumping issues. De Jager said many also wanted to know how the Congolese in rural areas would react to white farmers in their areas.

"The problem is there are no people in the rural areas, the rural areas are depopulated."

Farmers who have contacted Agri SA thus far have between 15 and 35-years of experience. De Jager said this means that they were roughly between 35- and 55-years-old.

He said the interest shown does not necessarily mean South African farmers want to leave permanently.

"It's not an uprooting of farmers in South Africa, it's rather looking for options for the future," said De Jager.

Nevertheless, most farmers indicated that land claims and land redistribution, the labour laws and the general political situation around agriculture in South Africa were making them uncomfortable.

News 24

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