7 June 2002

African ventures for intrepid only…

I had a farm in Africa – those were the enigmatic words that opened Danish settler Karen Blixens account of her time in Kenya, immortalised by Meryl Streep in the film Out of Africa.

Nowadays, given the political instability and economic crises sweeping the continent, few farmers would consider moving to Africa. But for the intrepid producer huge tracts of land are on sale for less than the cost of a modest London flat.

"There are certainly opportunities available," reckons Peter Caroe, who has specialised in African properties for international agent Knight Frank since 1983. "In parts of Africa flowers and vegetables can be grown for 11 months of the year."

Mr Caroe says it is impossible to quote meaningful land values, but, for the commercially minded, he is currently selling land near Lake Naivasha in Kenya which is surplus to the requirements of a major cut flower producer. The 1525-acre block, on the border of Hells Gate National Park, is valued at around £2000/acre.

At the other end of the scale, he has been approached by somebody with "tens of thousands" of hectares to sell in South Africa. "They want US$25/ha (£7/acre) which I still think is too much."

Slightly more manageable might be a 1700-acre maize and stock farm on the market with Pretoria-based Tryhou Estates. The holding near Adelaide, in the Eastern Cape, is priced at 1.6m Rand, a mere £114,000.

A spokesman at the South African High Commission said UK farmers would be welcome. "On a general level we would encourage anybody who could help to improve the economy." He also dismissed worries that the country could slide into the same chaos as neighbouring Zimbabwe.

"The South African people are different, anything that happens must go via the constitution. Without farmers a place like South Africa could not make it."

Zambia is another potential destination for the adventurous farmer. Mr Caroe says only 10% of the countrys cultivatable land is under production and in the more remote areas the government will "almost give away" land to somebody with working capital to invest.

Close to the capital Lusaka, he is selling a commercial 6000-acre ranching property for US$240,000 (£165,000).

According to Mr Caroe, space is one of the main reasons for moving to Africa and for those with deep pockets Ol Pejeta, a 90,000-acre ranch in the shadow of Mt Kenya, offers plenty of it. Formerly the home of controversial businessman Adnan Khashoggi, the £10m+ property includes a 23,000-acre game reserve and a luxurious tented safari camp.

But if the prospect of the African sunshine seems a little too hot, across the globe Canada offers some cooler opportunities but still with plenty of room to move. In Manitoba, bordering the US, Maurice Torr of Century 21 West-Man Realty is marketing a number of sizeable properties.

In the south-west of the state, a 2047-acre grain farm has a price tag of C$940,000 (£420,000), while stock farmers might be interested in a 1494-acre cattle operation valued at C$416,000 (£186,000). But, be warned, temperatures during the winter regularly fall as low as -30C and a number of UK farmers have returned home after only a few winters. &#42

AFRICAN CONTACTS

Knight Frank 020-7629 8171

RSA High Commission 020-7451 7138

Zambian High Commission 020-7589 6655

Tryhou Estates www.tryhou.co.za

West-Man Realty www.c21westman.com

…and I thought the pigeons at home were bad…

&#8226 Knight Frank 020-7629 8171

&#8226 RSA High Commission 020-7451 7138

&#8226 Zambian High Commission 020-7589 6655

&#8226 Tryhou Estates www.tryhou.co.za

&#8226 West-Man Realty www.c21westman.com