A summit should be held to decide how land should best be allocated between food, infrastructure, and housing needs for the next 100 years, farmer union TAU SA said on Tuesday.
“All roleplayers at such a summit will have to agree on the minimum agricultural land which the country will require for sustainable food production for the next century,” the union said in a statement.
Only once this was established, should housing and infrastructure needs be considered.
TAU SA was concerned that South Africa's population was expected to grow to 85 million people in 2050, from about 50 million people now.
“This means that South Africa alone has to make provision to feed an additional 35 million people over the next 38 years.”
Housing supply would need to double, which could encroach on agriculturally viable land. The additional population would also need water and other infrastructure.
“This means less agricultural land will be available while more food needs to be produced. As it is, South Africa is a marginal agricultural land with unpredictable climate, and it may not be possible to ensure higher production from existing agricultural resources.”
TAU SA called for the land question to be considered from this economic point of view, rather than an emotional, political position.
“We wish to put it on record that primary agriculture is one of the cornerstones of a healthy economy. Agriculture and land as its most important resource should therefore be clinically evaluated from an economic perspective.”
It called for the land audit to be completed within the next 18 months and for R40 million to be allocated to it.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told the African National Congress policy conference in Midrand an audit identifying state and public-owned land would be completed by the end of this year.
TAU SA said: “This audit will provide government with a more accurate indication of land reform requirements in the country, and will be more reliable than the guesswork being flaunted currently.
“It will moreover be able to accurately determine which land belongs to the state, and where and how it is utilised (if at all).”
Once the audit was completed, the land summit should be held.
TAU SA said only people with the right expertise should be involved in food production.
“Land reform will take its natural course as more qualified black food producers emerge and structures such as the Land Bank are prepared to help them acquire land.
“Any unnatural process, such as forced land reform, will contribute to create a crisis in food supply, with the result that people who now demand ownership of land, will then probably not even get any food.”
Last week, the ANC conference decided the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach to land restitution would be dropped. Instead land reform would be done in terms of the “just and equitable” requirement of section 25 of the Constitution. - Sapa