By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
The below member statement was delivered by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Roy Jankielsohn (MPL), during a sitting of the Free State Provincial Legislature on Thursday 30 July 2015.
Our Free State dairy industry continues to shed producers and jobs. The numbers of milk producers in the Free State have dropped from 987 in January 2007 to a mere 316 in September 2014. This amounts to a 68% reduction in milk farmers in the Free State over a period of seven years.
In December 1997 the Free State was producing 18% of South Africa’s milk, which dropped to 9,5% by October 2013.
Currently this industry in the Free State is facing another serious challenge affecting about 50 dairy farms in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District. The looming closure of the largest purchaser of milk in the area, namely Montic’s Clocolan Milk Depot at the end of September threatens to leave about 50 milk producers without a market for their milk. This amounts to about 120 000 litres of milk per day that will have no delivered address. The province only has 13 milk buyers and the closure of this depot has huge implications for this industry in the district and the province.
Input costs such as electricity, fuel, grain, and other products required in the dairy industry have increased dramatically over the past few years. This has not been matched by similar increases in prices paid to producers for their milk. Furthermore, the importation of dairy products from countries whose producers are often subsidised by their governments impacts negatively on our local industry.
The dairy industry is highly specialised and should production capacity and especially priceless dairy herds that have been bred over generations be lost, this will probably not be recovered in that area of the Free State in our lifetime. The industry is also labour intensive which implies a great number of potential job losses in an area of the province that cannot afford this.
We call on all the role players, including our provincial government, to make an effort to assist in this matter to ensure that our province does not lose further agricultural capacity and jobs.
If we lose our local agricultural capacity we will soon be dependent on international producers who will then be in a position to charge us whatever they like for food products that could be produced locally. Our government must protect our agricultural industry and ultimately our consumers from this serious threat as part of a long term strategy to ensure food security for our growing population.