09 Jun 2011
Farmers in KwaZulu-Natal have been accused of ripping off the government by charging highly inflated prices for their farmland. Organised agriculture in the province has condemned the practice saying that these deals could put neighbouring landowners out of business.
Earlier this year a farmer, Ron Jenkinson, sold his 250 hectare farm, Jengro Estates near Kwambonambi to the Rural Development and Land Reform Department for R24-million. He apparently decided how much he wanted for the farm and the department agreed to pay him that price.
According to AgriSA’s Theo de Jager the land negotiations should be backed by the opinions of a professional valuator and not be subject to the price that a farmer has set.
Bonginkosi Zulu spokesman for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform says that a professional land valuator had been appointed by Jengro Estates to assess the value of the farm.
He confirmed that the department had paid R74k per hectare for land growing sugar cane and R62k per hectare for land growing timber along with another R5k per hectare for grazing land. An additional R5,2-million was paid for improvements to the land.
However, professional valuator Mick Butcher says that these prices are ridiculously high. He says that based on his experience in KwaZulu-Natal the current market value for land is a maximum of R50k a hectare including equipment and buildings.
Furious farmers in the Kwambonambi area say that the government could have spent its money much more wisely and bought considerably more land than they did.
Jengro Estates has been taken over by Noah Nyawo the 23-year-old head of Ikusasa Lethu Youth in Agriculture project and the group is now paying the government R167k a year to lease the farm.
He says that the group was told by government to look for a suitable farm and they chose the one at Jengro Estates. He says the government did a valuation and agreed to pay the farmer the price he had asked for the land.
According to the South African Sugar Association, sugar farms in the province are selling for more than R50k per hectare but were actually valued at a maximum of about R40k a hectare.
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Willing Selling, Willing Buyer!! No use whining once the horse has bolted. Why did the Authorities not investigate and do their jobs that they are paid to do!!? - Brenda
Paddy HartdegenFreelance columnist at property24.com.
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