If you’re Georgia, a poor post-Soviet state with an old-fashioned and inefficient farming industry, what do you do to perk things up a little bit? Why, you invite a bunch of South African farmers to move north and set up shop in the Caucasus.
It sounds bonkers, but the Georgian government are very serious. A couple of groups of South African farmers have already toured the country looking for suitable properties, and Georgia have even set up a website – www.boers.ge – to sell the country to agricultural investors.
The website’s name gives an interesting indication of the South African politics that are also serving to push this initiative – the marketing is targeted specifically at Boer farmers, who are increasingly disaffected in South Africa. One of the farmers told the BBC:
“The government can come to you, and tell you, this is what we are willing to pay for your farm and you have to sell. If the government doesn’t recognise the value you put on the farm, wants to pay you maybe a half of that, and you have to sell, what security do you have?”
Although the politics behind the move might be suspect to some (the Moscow Times reports that there are already some nationalist Boer websites wondering if the Caucasus is ‘white’ enough for their farmers, and that there are also some Georgians who are suspicious of the plan’s potential to cause ethnic tensions in Georgia) I think that, if this plan comes off, then, on a business level, the move is going to do Georgia’s farming industry a great deal of good – farmers who are experienced at working in a way largely alien to Georgian farming will not only make a success of their own farms but will, through competition, force domestic farmers to improve too.
And, if nothing else, an influx of rugby playing farmers is sure to do boost the already high flying Georgia rugby team!
As an aside – here’s an extract from the boers.ge website that I’m not sure too many people will be able to relate to:
“Georgian Police is one of the most effective polices in the world. Undertaken reforms eliminated corruption and increased trust in population.”
Hmmmm. I’m sure the Georgian police is much better than it used to be, but “one of the most effective polices in the world”? Perhaps not.
You realise they aren’t going to be able to buy the land. At least unless it is re-collectivised and sold off, which is unlikely with an ultra-liberal government.
Georgian farmers don’t even like the idea of a marketing cooperative, let alone consolidating small-holdings. So are the Boers going to feel more secure renting in Georgia than holding out in South Africa?
Won’t they just buy they land on the free market?
I agree that moving to Georgia is, in many ways, a more risky prospect than staying put in South Africa, even if there are problems with compulsory land purchase there. The Georgian government is much less stable, and corruption is a much bigger problem there – one that I suspect the incoming farmers won’t be properly equipped to deal with initially.
I think that the potential for profits is also probably greater though, for adventurous types…
We, Boers, serve all open minded people who treat us with respect – may that be know all over the World -we pride ourselves as rather able and competant farmers.