Farmers avert milk delivery crisis

FARMERS from Creighton, Ixopo and Donnybrook, known as the “milk bowl” of KwaZulu-Natal because of the high quantities of milk produced there, rallied to protect community and consumer interests after striking drivers halted the transport of milk last week.

This took place following a following a labour dispute between Dairy Farmers of South Africa (DFSA) and its drivers.

With little notice that the transport of their milk would not be available for at least 48 hours, and realising the financial and environmental impact this would have on the farming community, farmers took matters into their own hands, a statement said earlier this week.

A temporary “depot”, consisting of a gazebo, desk and a couple of chairs, was erected by Macston Dairy farmers Craig Macfarlane and Darran Stone at Loch Buighe dairy in Ixopo.

Local unemployed drivers arrived at the makeshift depot, where they were vetted and given a course on how to run the pumps on the trucks.

With farmers and their employees, they took over the driving and management of the milk pumps.

The depot became the central point for the transport of around 800 000 litres of milk a day across southern KZN - running 24 hours a day, for four days to September 29, ensuring consumers would not be short of milk.

“Without transportation farmers would have been forced to dump their milk,” said Stone.

“This would not just have resulted in a financial loss to the farmer, but would have been an ecological disaster as milk is a known environmental pollutant and on such a scale it would have been extremely difficult to get rid of,” he said.

DFSA CEO Jacques Botha said as a result of the strike, dairy farmers “faced a potential loss in terms of milk income and DFSA and Clover stood to lose significant amounts due to market share losses and losses of revenue”. Botha credited the “insignificant volumes” of raw milk that were lost over the four days to the “major role” milk producers played to transport milk.

Bruce Allwood, an Ixopo diary farmer, who assisted in planning the transport routes said that at some point down the line “the consumer would have had to pay for it too”.

The real success story, said Allwood, is the joint venture between farmers and unemployed drivers that has given skilled and competent drivers the opportunity to showcase their skills, gain confidence and earn a decent wage”, said Allwod.

KZN Agricultural Union CEO Sandy la Marque said: “Farmers who played a part in this mammoth exercise should feel proud of their efforts in taking action to protect the dairy farming industry, and for uplifting the community.” - Supplied.

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