DA hopes provincial agriculture budget will mitigate farm job losses

Dr Allen Grootboom, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson on Agriculture 

The Democratic Alliance hopes that tomorrow’s budget vote presentation by the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture will speak to the restoration of jobs in the agriculture sector, as well as restoring investor confidence in the province’s agriculture sector. This comes amidst looming job losses in the agricultural sector, as a result of the new minimum wage.

The revised sectorial determination has increased wages from R69 a day to R104 a day, and farmers and industry stakeholders have warned that job cuts are inevitable. The South African Institute of Race Relations has meanwhile estimated that up to 30% of 660 000 current farm workers across the country could lose their jobs by the end of the year.

We acknowledge that there is a shift in farming towards the mechanization of production. Nonetheless, the agricultural sector continues to have enormous potential in its ability to absorb high volumes of labour, as it has done in the past, and we expect the Northern Cape government to harness this potential.

For this to happen, we require the implementation of policies that would assist not only in skilling workers, but also in creating a more viable sector characterised by growth and job creation. This will in turn require special focus by the Northern Cape Agriculture Department on:

  • Providing for programmes that prepare workers for the gradual mechanization of farmers, which will require less labour but a higher skills demand;
  • Speeding up the land reform process and the privatization of communally owned land to create security of tenure in order to allow for both professional and small scale farmers to invest in agri-businesses;
  • Greater policy coherence between governments departments, through the use of interdepartmental teams which will be responsible for the assessment, implementation, and overseeing of various projects, with the respective MEC’s being held responsible if deadlines are not met;
  • Greater financial investments into the research of improved production techniques, which will enable farmers to be more cost effective and produce higher yields.

The DA sincerely hopes that the provincial agriculture department will tomorrow show its support to the farming sector by presenting a detailed plan to create a more viable sector characterized by growth and job creation. Failure to do so will jeopardize the livelihoods of countless Northern Cape families.

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