Land Committee

Ensuring long-term productivity from a planted area that's decreasing

The plantation forestry area in South Africa has declined from its peak of 1 518 138 hectares in 1997 to 1 191 638 hectares in 2018 – a decline of 326 500 hectares or 21.5%. The reasons for this are numerous and are, most importantly, the removal of trees from riparian areas, exit areas determined by Government following the leasing out of certain SAFCOL plantations, the damage caused by fires, pests and diseases and the increased conversion of plantation areas out of this land use to other crops, particularly avocados and macadamia nuts. This has had a marked impact on the long-term production of timber from the reduced plantation area.

An additional challenge for the Industry has been the need to embrace the “transformation” of the Industry. In South Africa, as in many other parts of world, the “land” issue is a very emotive one. The Government is keenly aware of the political need to address the injustices of the past as are current landowners, those previously disposed of their land, aspirant farmers and labour tenants. The Government has therefore, over the past 20 or so years, introduced numerous pieces of legislation specifically relating to the three pillars of land reform, namely:

  1. Restitution: This relates to the return of land to its historic owners through the land claims process.
  2. Redistribution: This relates to a voluntary process whereby land (upon which no land claims are registered) is sold to the State by landowners. The State then redistributes this land to new beneficiaries.
  3. Tenure Reform: This is a process to secure the long-term occupational rights of “labour tenants” living on the farmland upon which they currently (or did) work.

In addition to land reform matters, the Government has also focused its attention on other land related issues, some of the most important of which being the following:

  • The possible imposition of land ownership ceilings and restrictions on foreign ownership of land
  • Property rates applicable to forestry / agricultural land
  • Property valuation regulations related to land earmarked for land reform purposes
  • Expropriation without Compensation (EWC)
  • Prevention of unlawful evictions from and unlawful occupation of land.

Key objectives

  • Ensuring that all land reform initiatives involving forestry land are sustainable in the long-term, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the Forest Products to which it supplies its raw fibre through:

    • the development of post-settlement agreements for both corporate and private timber farmers.
    • lobbying Government on the negative consequences of some of their proposals through interacting with the relevant Departments and making submissions thereon (e.g. property valuation regulations, wealth tax proposals, etc.). This is done in close collaboration with Agri SA.
  • Ensuring that Government commits to the undertakings needed to increase the footprint of the plantation area so as to secure over R30 billion worth of downstream investments over the next five years. This is being undertaken through the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI).
  • Ensuring that FSA members and other parties are kept up to date with pertinent land related information affecting the Industry and their businesses via email communication and the placing of such information on our website

The FSA Land Committee was established 17 years ago to handle land related matters and met on an ad hoc basis as and when issues of importance arose. However, in recent years its role has changed into more of a consultative one, with virtually all the work being undertaken by FSA staff.

The overall objective of the work done by FSA’s Land Committee is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Industry through (a) ensuring that land reform initiatives are sustainably implemented, (b) promoting the growth of the Industry’s footprint through the PPGI initiative and (c) ensuring that potentially damaging proposed legislation, regulations or policies are not implemented.