The majority of farmers have taken up the offer to apply for an exemption from the R105 a day wage for farmworkers as set out in the new sectoral determination that came into effect on 1 March 2013.
In February, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced a new level of the minimum wage for the farmworkers sector in South Africa after a long and extensive consultation process with all stakeholders.
Subsequent to the announcement of the new level of the minimum wage by the minister, the department was informed by AGRI SA that farmers in Limpopo and Mpumalanga intend to retrench about 2000 workers - despite the offer made that those who cannot afford to pay the prescribed wages can apply for an exemption.
The department has so far received 918 applications with most of the applications received after 1 March which could delay the finalisation of the applications before the end of this month.
The total number of applications from the nine province's 74 603 affected farm workers received by the department is 918.
Currently the department is capturing the applications received and also requesting outstanding information from farmers.
As part of processing the applications, the department is further granting provisional approval to farmers to pay what has been agreed to during the consultation process with the workers provided that the agreed amount is more than R75.31 per day which would have been the new wage as from 1 March in terms of the reviewed sectoral determination.
However, farmers have submitted applications for exemption arguing that they cannot afford the new level of the minimum wage. The department has also through the Public Employment Service Programme received information that farmers in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape have submitted applications to employ foreign labour.
The application to employ farm workers from foreign countries is mainly coming from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape farmers.
When processing the applications for exemptions received, the department will also be taking the application for foreign labour employment into account in ensuring that South African labour is not replaced with foreign labour.
However, the department intends to engage with those farmers applying for foreign labour to discuss the possibility of absorbing workers from those farmers intending to retrench.