A group of roleplayers from the agricultural value chain gathered yesterday to discuss the minimum wage of farmworkers, effective 1 March 2021, farmers' union TLU SA said in a statement on Saturday.
The Department of Labour and Employment pushed through the increase of 16% despite various agricultural industry inputs, which questioned the proposal's sustainability and emphasised its implications.
"We received feedback from a wide range of farmers and other roleplayers in the value chain which indicates that they will be forced to make amendments to accommodate these changes," says Henry Geldenhuys, president of TLU SA.
"Unfortunately, most of them have decided to close all labour intensive divisions like growing vegetables to switch to more mechanised ways of producing food."
The meeting agreed that the changes would mostly affect unschooled workers and lead to them falling into unemployment.
"None of the roleplayers wants workers to earn an unreasonable remuneration or to lose their jobs," says Mr Geldenhuys. "We only want the government to realise that farmers cannot afford the increased wages. Any producer must see profitability as a priority to farm sustainably. When it affects profit, a farmer must make adjustments."
The meeting suggested that Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi should give feedback on the input process and confirm if they considered any of the suggestions in making the final decision. Furthermore, Minister for Agriculture Thoko Didiza will be asked if she was part of the process and why she is not taking a stand for agriculture.
The roleplayers further suggested legal recourse and political and public pressure to prevent the increase from being implemented. The attendees agreed that the process needs the cooperation of all roleplayers in the value chain to protect agriculture's sustainability.