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SA farming sector will survive

Agricultural Business Chamber says SA’s farming sector is and will always be resilient.

Many farmworkers in the Hex River Valley complain about their living conditions. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Agricultural Business Chamber said on Wednesday South Africa's farming sector is resilient and will be able to weather the challenges it faces.

It's been just over a month since the new basic minimum wage for farmworkers came into effect.

It's been acknowledged by government that the national wage hike will hit some farms hard.

The chamber said the next two years will be critical for the agriculture sector.

The organisation's John Purchase said it will be during this period that many farmers must find ways to incorporate the increased wage bill into their businesses or face going under.

But Purchase said the industry has always proven to be buoyant.

"A number of sectors, especially the labour intensive sectors, are going to put them under pressure. The agricultural sector is certainly resilient enough to overcome it but is going to take a bit of time."

Hundreds of farmers have applied for exemptions from paying the new minimum wage.

The Department of Labour said at least 2,000 jobs have been lost in the sector since the increase came into effect, most of them in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department said R4 million has been transferred to union leader Nosey Pieterse's organisation.

It emerged in Parliament last month that the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry got a cash injection from government.

Pieterse, who was a key role player in a series of farm strikes in the Western Cape, heads the association.

The department signed a two year agreement with Pieterse's organisation to deal with human rights issues affecting farmworkers.

The department's Steve Galane said, "A human rights report came out and said things were not right with the farmworkers. Their working conditions were one of the things that were mentioned. The union is dealing with issues like that amongst other things."