Land reform farms are not productive - Nkwinti

MULDERSDRIFT, South Africa (Reuters) - South Africa's land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Thursday that very few of the farms transferred to blacks under the country's land reforms were productive, partly owing to poor management.

South Africa's land reform programme has caused unease and slowed investment in the agricultural sector as white commercial farmers remain unsure of whether to reinvest in farms under claim by black farmers.

"(The) government didn't have a strategy to ensure that the land was productive, if there was a strategy it was not backed with proper resources," Nkwinti told a farmers' conference.

After the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa's government set a target of handing over 30 percent of commercial farmland to blacks by 2014 as part of a plan to correct racial imbalances in land distribution caused by apartheid.

But the programme had not worked as expected due to several hurdles including lack of funds and poor management.

"The other problem is that we gave land to big groups of people and when there are conflicts within the group, nobody develops the land anymore is consumed with the in-fighting and the land remains unproductive," Nkwinti said.

"Now the (land reform) process has changed to focus on people who have shown more passion and ability to farm," he added.

He said the government would address some of the challenges in its green paper aimed at resuscitating the reform programme.

The new South Africa draft land policy also proposes limits to land ownership by its own citizens and foreigners.

Land reform is a sensitive issue in South Africa and has been brought into focus by the decline in agriculture in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where white commercial farmers were often evicted violently by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Pretoria has said its own land reform will be orderly, but critics have said many of the same problems faced by Zimbabwe, including lack of proper support for new farmers and inadequate farming skills, are likely to hinder South Africa's programme.

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