Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DANIEL BORN
Senzeni Zokwana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DANIEL BORN

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has vowed that expropriation of land without compensation will not undermine agricultural production and food security.

The ANC’s land reform drive has sparked concern for the agricultural sector and the broader economy.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC would support an amendment to the Constitution that would make it clear how land can be expropriated without compensation.

Speaking on the allocation of fishing rights, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said the task of the department would be to roll out support programmes, train beneficiaries and conduct various hand-holding exercises “so that we don’t undermine agricultural production as an economic factor and food security for the country”.

He said: “We anticipate more smallholder farmers to emerge out of this path we are embarking on and future commercial farmers and including their value chains.”

He said the opportunity of owning land, if correctly handled, will empower the youth to pursue many agricultural enterprises taking advantage of smart technologies that are now dominating the sector.

“We need a new generation of farmers from our youth ready to take up the cudgels from the ageing generation of farmers.”

Zokwana said Ramaphosa had instructed the department to ensure that farmer support programmes are urgently initiated in depressed areas before the first rains of 2018.

“This should include supporting farmers with tools, tractors, fertilisers, seeds, extension services, finance and access to key infrastructure.”

Agricultural industry body AgriSA said amending the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation is a populist move that will discourage investment in the sector and devastate the economy.

It said expropriation without compensation and economic growth “are diametrically contrasted — and nowhere in the world has this worked in any shape or form”.

Zokwana said his department was also prioritising the allocation of fishing rights to the previously disadvantaged.

The government is concerned that the sector, which has annual sales of more than R5bn, is largely untransformed. In 2016, the Marine Living Resources Amendment Act was promulgated. It recognises previously marginalised small-scale fishing communities.

Zokwana said the department would maximise the entry of previously disadvantaged people but added that some companies were working against transformation.