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Friday Aug 10, 2018

Farmers wait and see on land reform proposals

Farmers are playing a wait-and-see game on the controversial expropriation of land without compensation, as there have been no panic sales of farms.

Experts say there has been a rise in farms selling under R10 million while the owners of more expensive farms are waiting for the next move in the land debate.

Economist Johann Bornman, who undertook a land audit in 2017, said there has been no panic sales.

"At this stage it is relatively normal in the agricultural property sector. There has been no massive upsurge in sales because it is still early days. When we have to look at prices, we see that it has been normal and nothing below average," he said.

Bornman said it was difficult for farmers to leave the market and then enter it again.

"Once you leave, you leave. It is difficult to get back into the market again. At the moment it is also harvest time for farmers and there are some good indicators of good profits, so to sell now would be difficult. "We might see some developments in the next few months, but many farmers are still doing what needs to be done," he said.

AgriSell broker Gary Terblanche said farms under R10m were selling well. AgriSell is a national property agent selling farms and other agricultural land.

"We see the sellers not accepting any offers below their asking prices. Our best selling areas in the Western Cape are in the Karoo, Clanwilliam and Ceres. There has however been no panic sales and those who are buying are continuing to farm. The R20m farm owners are waiting to see what will happen with the whole land process," he said.

Parliament's joint review committee has held over 30 hearings in all nine provinces, with the last of the hearings taking place at the Friends of God Church in Goodwood last week.

The committee was tasked to look at amending section 25 of the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. It is to provide a full report after considering all comments and submissions.

Meanwhile Premier Helen Zille has called for the release of several mega-properties that can be developed for affordable housing in the Cape Town metro. Writing in her Daily Maverick column, Zille said the properties owned by national government were well-located land.

It would facilitate the kind of land reform that would build, rather than break, South Africa's economy, Zille said.

"Should national government release its five large pieces of land, which consist of Ysterplaat, Culemborg, Youngsfield, Wingfield and Denel in Cape Town, it could potentially yield 93 817 affordable housing units," said Zille.

"The Conradie Hospital 22-hectare site is truly a game-changer because it is pioneering sustainable land reform where it is most needed. We just need to dramatically escalate the numbers involved, and for this we need large tracts of land owned by national government in Cape Town."

The global trend of urbanisation should place the land reform spotlight firmly on urban land and housing, she said.

ANC Youth League provincial chairperson Muhammad Khalid Sayed said the provincial government must desist from disposing of suitable pockets of land to private property owners.

"We call on the national government to use its power to expropriate underutilised land and use it to build houses for our people. The government does not need to wait for the public hearingsĀ…" he said.

Cape Argus

 
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