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Agri SA to launch litigation fund to protect property rights of farmers

18 October 2017 – 13:31 Alistair Anderson

Agricultural industry association Agri SA will release a land-ownership audit on November 1, after which it plans to launch a litigation fund to protect farmers’ property rights.

Executive director Omri van Zyl said at a media conference on Wednesday that the fund needed to protect farming and SA’s agrarian industry, which accounts for a quarter of SA’s economic output.

“Land has been politicised in this country and we need to step away from that. We need to rather ensure food security for SA and the other African countries that SA serves with food,” he said.

There is as much as R431bn worth of agricultural assets in SA, of which R140bn is funded by commercial banks. SA exports 40% of its annual produce, a large chunk of which goes to nearby African countries, according to Van Zyl. So far in 2017, South African agricultural produce has increased 22% on 2016’s figure. It is the fastest-growing sector in SA’s economy and produces four times more jobs than any other sector.

Agri SA spends nearly R190m a year on transformation, having empowered 100,000 farmers in 2017, said van Zyl.

He said Agri SA was trying to raise R38m by June 2018 for its litigation fund. This initial money would fund its study into land ownership among emerging and established farmers, and a communication campaign “to shift the debate on land from the present radical one of taking land with no compensation, to a more balanced and rational debate”.

It would also be used for litigation around the Regulation of Landholdings Bill and the Property Valuation Act, the granting of exploration rights for shale gas, and prospecting and mining rights for uranium and molybdenum, among others.

Business Day