Challenges, chances in agriculture

AGRICULTURE can play a crucial role in boosting job creation.

Speaking at the first conference of Emerging Views on the Eastern Cape Economy at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University north campus yesterday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan said some sectors had not fully seized all the economic opportunities in South Africa. "Agriculture is one of them, in both the Eastern Cape and South Africa," he said.

"The bottom line is, all of us are concerned about the low-level employment figures in the country, with government creating most of the jobs although the private sector — which takes up 70% of the economy — should actually be the real engine of growth and job creation," Gordhan said.

South Africa was lagging in exports of agriculture.

"We have a lot of possibilities open to us and the rest of the world is here, but we are waiting to compete because people are always waiting for government support," Gordhan said.

"Do something and start a business in agriculture. Don't wait for government support. Go out and do it for yourself."

Gordhan referred to one of the papers discussed at the conference about a scarcity of jobs in the Sundays River Valley's citrus industry. "Locals do not want to work; others say they want to work. This is a challenge many face in South Africa," he said.

Malon Chirara of Rhodes University presented his paper, "Analysing perceived labour shortages in the presence of unemployment: a case study of the Sundays River Valley citrus farms". He said despite unemployment in the valley being between 44% and 49%, citrus farmers battled to find workers, particularly in the peak harvesting seasons.

Chirara interviewed farmers, employees and community members at the beginning of the season. Farm workers said the work was strenuous and physically demanding.

The biggest reason given for why the unemployed did not want to work on the farms was because of what they considered to be poor wages.

Chirara said his research found that migrant farm labourers were willing to work for minimum wages or even less than minimum wages.

In turn, farmers said the wages were fair, but that the community abused alcohol, was less productive than migrant labourers and more reliant on social grants.

Article by: Cindy Preller & Rochelle de Kock
Article Source: HERALD (Morning Final)

Source:  HERALD (Morning Final)

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