FS reliant on dairy industry

2015-08-26 06:00

ROY JANKIELSOHN, leader of the DA:

THE Free State dairy industry continues to shed producers and jobs.

The number of milk producers in the Free State has dropped from 987 in January 2007 to a mere 316 in September 2014. This is 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.

This industry in the Free State is faced by 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, Montic’s Clocolan Milk Depot, at the end of September threatens to leave about 50 milk producers without a market. This amounts to about 120 000 F of milk per day that will have no delivery address. The province only has 13 milk buyers and the closure of this depot has huge implications.

Input costs regarding 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. Also, the importation of dairy products from countries of which producers are often subsidised by their governments impacts negatively on the local industry.

The dairy industry is highly specialised – 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 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 be in a position to charge us whatever they like for food products that could have been produced locally.

Government must protect our agricultural industry and ultimately our consumers from this threat as part of a long-term strategy to ensure food security for our growing population

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