In response to the new wage determination announced by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant yesterday, a number of stakeholders have expressed concern that the minimum wage of R105 a day will lead to significant job cuts, as well as food price increases.
Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson must urgently present her plan to mitigate against job losses in the agriculture sector. I have today written to the chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mlungisi Johnson, to request that the Minister appear before the committee to do so at the first available opportunity.
Given that the contribution of agriculture to national GDP declined from 2.5% to 1.9% between 2008 and 2011, urgent measures need to be taken to ensure the continued viability of the sector and to preserve jobs. Failure to do so will jeopardise the livelihoods of countless families.
A recent study by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) reveals that the agriculture sector is evolving towards one characterised by fewer, more skilled and better paid workers. This means hundreds of thousands of families will potentially be without a means of income.
Minister Joemat-Pettersson should therefore prioritise a number of steps to mitigate the looming crisis, for example an incentive programme that will assist the agriculture sector to absorb the higher labour cost; initiatives that will improve the productivity of the sector so that farmers are able to pay higher wages; and improved training and support services to farm workers, such as the dedicated Farm Worker Development Programme that has been implemented in the Western Cape.
The Minister must present these plans to Parliament as a matter of urgency. It is time for her to show that she is serious about restoring stability to the sector and supporting all stakeholders to maintain their livelihood and contribute to the economy.
Annette Steyn, Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries