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May 09, 2009

South African farmers in high demand across Africa

by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

A number of African countries are inviting South African farmers to come over to their countries and ply their trade.

Libyan leader, Muamar Gaddafi is specifically requesting for 80 South African farmers to go to Libya to farm.

And there arereports that South African farmers are flocking to accept an invitation from the government of the Republic of Congo (Brazaville) to start commercial farming.

An organization called GHANSA is working with and encouraging South African farmers to come to Ghana to do commercial farming, and the story has generated some debate, especially over land issues in the country.

The other countries that are inviting South African farmers are Uganda and Kenya.

In Congo Brazaville for instance, the government has offered free land, exemption from taxes and import duties for five years, and the freedom to repatriate profits to South Africa. The country is also offering the South African farmers the option of retaining the rights to sell the businesses or leave them to their heirs.

According to the reports, the South African farmers in return must establish a commercial faring sector that will ensure food security within five years. Congo Brazaille imports almost all of its food because the country’s agriculture sector is severely neglected.

The colonial masters of the Congo, France however appears unhappy with the development, according to a South African farmers’ co-operative, Agri-Braz.

Its chairman, Andre Botha was quoted as saying “Congo-Brazzaville is a dumping ground for third-grade French food products. The French, Congo-Brazzaville’s former colonial masters, are not happy with us. They know what South African farmers can achieve.”

As part of the enticement package, Congo Brazzaville has undertaken to help farmers with infrastructure such as roads, telecommunications and railways.

Fertiliser manufacturers and others have expressed interest in the venture, and logistical challenges are being addressed - such as the development of home-schooling packages for children of relocating farmers, Botha has said.

About 94% of Congo-Brazzaville’s people live in cities and towns, making it Africa’s most urbanised country. “The remaining 6% live in 90% of the country and there is almost no commercial agriculture taking place, despite abundant fertile arable land,” according to Botha.

Adding, “there is about 10 million hectares available in a country that straddles the equator and therefore has two summers. It is humid, hot and wet, better than Winterton in KwaZulu Natal, regarded as the best farming land in South Africa with its average annual rainfall of 1 100 mm. In the Congo it is 1 500 mm on average.”

Botha notes that SA’s two major maize-growing areas enjoy far less rainfall: the Nigel-Potchefstroom-Vanderbijlpark triangle averages 450 mm-700 mm, and Lichtenburg-Bothaville-Ventersdorp 600 mm-700 mm.

The South African farmers are attracted to this particular offer and others they are considering in Africa because of the acceptance and appreciation they are getting from these countries, which South Africa has failed to offer them.

While South African farmers would not leave the country permanently, they would accept these offers because of the good business opportunities that they offer.

Ghana Business News

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