Congo lures SA farmers with free land

Time of article published Apr 17, 2009

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Johannesburg - In the biggest land deal in recent African history, the Republic of Congo has sent a delegation of five farmers to South Africa for talks with the South African farm union AgriSA, about the offer of 10-million hectares of farmland to South African farmers.

AgriSA said the government of the country, also known as Congo Brazzaville, wanted to improve food security.

Until now, Congo - which like the bigger Democratic Republic of Congo has been beset by political and ethnic tension in recent years - has had to import 99 percent of its food, mainly from France, Theo de Jager, deputy president of AgriSA, said.

The South African farmers would be able to lease the land for free for 99 years, De Jager said. Other enticements include a five-year "holiday" on corporate tax and the dismantling of taxes on the import of agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertiliser and machines, De Jager said.

The farmers will be allowed to take all their profits out of the country and, although the project is being billed a food security initiative, are under no obligation to sell their output on the domestic market.

De Jager said that food prices in the Congo are high, making it attractive for farmers to sell their products there. Some 1 300 farmers have shown interest in transplanting themselves; the first of these are expected to settle in the country after June. Among other things, they will grow maize, soya, cotton and coffee. Poultry and cattle farms are also planned. - Sapa-dpa

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