Wage hike could harm farming sector

Agri SA says the new R105 wage increase for farmworkers could harm the agriculture sector.

Farmland in the Hex River Valley. Picture: Aletta Gardner

CAPE TOWN - Agri SA said on Monday the new basic minimum wage for farmworkers could ultimately harm the agriculture sector.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced that the new basic minimum wage for the farming sector has been set at R105 per day.

The Western Cape was hit by a series of strikes in recent months as workers demanded a daily wage of R150.

This amounts to R11,66 per hour or R525 a week.

Farmworkers initially demanded a R150 daily wage hike, which they claim was more than double their daily payment of R69.

During the demonstrations, angry farmworkers looted shops, destroyed property and torched hectares of farmland.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) Tony Ehrenreich has cautiously welcomed the pay hike.

"I think the R105 will go a long way to show workers they made incredible strides. This will change in industrial relations on the farms forever."

But Agri SA president Johannes Möller said labour intensive farming is likely to suffer the most.

"South Africa has already lost extreme labour intensive commodities like the tea industry. Labour intensive commodities will be the worst hit."

But Oliphant said those farmers who cannot afford to increase wages must prove it.

Minimum wages will be reassessed in 2014 and 2015, in line with inflation.

The hike will come into effect from 1 March.