Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A study in land ownership...

Global corn supply may be about to lose a contributor. As South Africa starts to seize and redistribute farms from whites to blacks (their terminology - not mine) it would be reasonable to anticipate a steep decline in SA output.

South Africa has seized its first farm - in the clearest indication yet that it is bowing to growing pressure to redistribute land to majority blacks.

Black pressure groups and trade unions have been threatening to begin invading farms unless the government moved quickly to redistribute land.

Among many of South Africa's 50,000-plus white commercial farmers, this first land expropriation by President Thabo Mbeki's government echoes Robert Mugabe's violent land seizures in neighbouring Zimbabwe where at least 4,000 farmers have been evicted from their land, leading to the collapse of that country's economy. [More]

While the Mugabe action in Zimbabwe was stunning in its economic stupidity, it set a pattern of revenge that will be hard to prevent being echoed in other countries.

Currently (as of July 2006), Zimbabwe suffers from widespread food shortages, the world's highest inflation rate at over 1,100% (Year on Year Figures for June according to the CSO) and a bitter political struggle often turns violent between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change which has faced imprisonment and torture. Domestic and international critics lay much of the blame for the current chaos at the feet of the land reform program. Many Zimbabwean refugees have fled to South Africa or Mozambique. [More]

I also wonder where these suddenly-cashed-out Afrikaners will choose to invest. They are great farmers, and should they wind up in Hungary or Poland or Nebraska, they will be formidable competitors.

[Note: One great source for background on South Africa is reading "The Covenant" by John Mitchner. It's readable prose, but mostly it downloads an immense amount of concentrated history, geography, etc. to the reader in a palatable form.]

If you think about other countries where redistribution might occur, it is hard not to speculate on the leftward tilt of much of South America, and ponder the future of farms in Brazil.

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