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Agricultural revolution needs careful planning

ZULULAND OBSERVER / 22 JANUARY 2018 - 16.00 / STAFF REPORTER

DEPUTY Dean in the Faculty of Commerce Administration and Law at the University of Zululand (Unizulu), Dr Irrshad Kaseeram, says the ANC’s idea of focusing on land redistribution with government support to create an agricultural revolution, is at best a fantasy.

This is in response to ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remark that many farms under black ownership since 1994 had been left derelict and unproductive.

Image - Dr Irrshad Kaseeram. Zululand Observer

Ramaphosa said he would order a study on returned agricultural land to determine what could be done with it to change socio-economic conditions.

His comment came after commercial farmers expressed concerns over an announcement published in the Government Gazette last month that codes for black empowerment would be adjusted, requiring a quarter of farms to be owned by black people whose produce should be sold to the government.

The ANC has been vocal on the land issue and resolved at its elective conference last month to amend the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation as part of the radical economic transformation agenda.

Kaseeram reckons the land issue is really an urban one.

‘Government needs to find urban land for housing close to workplaces. Merely redistributing land to the dispossessed and political elites will result in failure as has been seen since 1994. The government support required is enormous and largely unsustainable.’

Agriculture’s contribution to GDP has declined to less than 5% in recent years and since 1994 there has been mass migration to the cities, with people seeking employment in the manufacturing (22% of GDP) and services (70% of GDP) sectors. The current rural population stands at around 30%.

‘Perhaps farming cooperatives comprising a mix of skilled individuals, labourers and investors might achieve the desired objectives, but very few examples abound.

‘Land redistribution with leasing to successful agri-business entrepreneurs might be the way out.

‘However, land leasing does have a major drawback, preventing the lease holder from investing in infrastructure that reaps benefits over the long term,’ said Kaseeram.

He emphasised research which showed that over the past 40 years the number of farms have decreased, but through the use of technology the fewer farms have become more productive.

‘For farms to operate at maximum efficiency and profitability, a critical blend of technology and land size is needed.

‘A successful farmer (agri-business entrepreneur) operating in a global context has to have knowledge usually acquired over generations, the capacity to assimilate current approaches and access to capital to invest in the latest equipment and other inputs,’ Kaseeram concluded.

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LINK : https://zululandobserver.co.za/163249/agricultural-revolution-needs-careful-planning/

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