Farm’s future ‘bleak’

2019-07-29 15:58
At least 700 people would be left jobless if Weenen’s biggest employer, Sun Valley, closes its gates.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

At least 700 people would be left jobless if Weenen’s biggest employer, Sun Valley, closes its gates.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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The management of Sun Valley are uncertain about the future of the farm as the feuding in the area has damaged operations.

This resulted in them being two months behind on this season’s harvest, which was anticipated to cost them thousands of rands as it delayed their shipments to the buyers of their oranges and lemons in European countries.

“We have deadlines to meet and if we are late that affects our product and the prices,” said one of the managers.

The farm’s management previously lived on-site with their families but have since moved to a neighbouring town as safety concerns mount.

“There are daily shootings. We still have to come here for work and each day we don’t know whether we are going to get out alive but at least our wives and children are safe.”

Another manager said sometimes employees asked to leave work early when violence erupted in their villages. He said the company did not stop them because the management did not want to do anything that could jeopardise their safety and that of their families.

“We are going through this with them so we try and support them as much as we can because we know how difficult it is,” he said.

At least 700 people would be left jobless if Sun Valley, the town’s biggest employer, closed its gates.

Sandy la Marque, the chief executive of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), said the organisation was aware of the situation that is threatening the sustainability of Sun Valley. “It is understood that at this time the situation is being attended to and we should allow these processes to take place. Kwanalu and its members are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a key economical activity in the province, as such the importance of economic and property rights and the protection of these is imperative to growth and employment,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Weenen Farmers’ Association’s Sarel le Roux who said the agricultural community did not want to get involved in disputes, they just wanted peace.

Most of the region’s farms has been awarded to land claimants and Le Roux said those who leased them from the restitution beneficiaries wanted that land to remain productive.

“All of us, including the government and communities, must protect the land that is still productive otherwise we are going to became another statistic of a failed region and people are going to lose their jobs.”

He said going forward the government needed to review the land restitution programme so that awards were made in an orderly way. He said this would include working with commercial farmers to capacitate the beneficiaries with the knowledge and skills as that would hopefully reduce the number of farms collapsing and disputes.

Le Roux said the government should also look into bringing agri-processing investments to areas like Weenen where people fought over limited agricultural job opportunities.

“Agriculture is the biggest employer in Weenen so I don’t have to tell you what happens if just one farm closes.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  farms struggling

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