Pretoria - Due to uncertainty created by the South African government's move to expropriate land without compensation, several South African farmers are migrating to settle in other countries, agricultural industry association Agri SA said on Wednesday.
"This is extremely serious, and the knock-on effect on the whole economy is going to be there. If you don't have confidence [in an economy], why would you invest? Something else is also happening ... we are losing young farmers. They decide they cannot do this, they don't see a future to a certain extent," said Pierre Vercueil, Agri SA deputy president who is also a commercial farmer.
"We see immigration [of farmers from South Africa]. You just have to go the embassies and ask what is happening. Over the last 20 years, we have seen the decrease in farmers' numbers from something like 60 000 to 35 000, and this is escalating.
On Tuesday, Parliament by majority vote adopted a report recommending that Section 25 of the Constitution be amended to explicitly allow expropriation without compensation.
The report by the Constitutional Review Committee was supported by 209 legislators and opposed by 91, following a robust debate in the House.
Vercueil said South African farmers were migrating to countries including Zambia, Canada, Angola, Botswana, New Zealand, Australia and Russia.
"This is the situation. We've got a brain-drain. We are landing ourselves in a situation where the future is being compromised by populist policies, which is not sustainable," he said.
Free State Agriculture president Francois Wilken said the government should not "fool around with the nation's food".
"We as farmers are committed to produce enough food for the nation. That is why we need security of land. We can't produce if we haven't got title deeds or with the sword of expropriation without compensation over our heads. Don't fool around with the food at the nation's table. You cannot forever come and tell us that everything will be alright, then you get on a stage and destroy the industry. This won't work," said Wilken.
"Today is the day when the nation of South Africa must come behind the farmers, the producers, commercial farmers, upcoming farmers, everyone producing food. About 70 percent of our people live in cities. We need the commercial farmers, and the upcoming farmers."
Annelize Crosby, head of land division at Agri SA said the organisation has assembled a legal team, with senior counsel, to closely monitor developments on the highly contentious matter of land distribution in South Africa.