Impact of new minimum wage on apple and pear farmers
By Denene Erasmus

According to South Africa’s largest apple and pear supplier, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the minimum wage increase for farm workers – from R69/day to R105/day – will see some farmers exiting the sector.

Tru-Cape managing director Charles Hughes said it’s imperative government understands exactly what the industry can afford in terms of wages to ensure long-term sustainability.

“Sadly there are farms that won’t survive the higher input costs, and the industry will see some either going bust or being absorbed by larger units,” said Hughes.
In addition, growers will be looking to reduce their work force through a complete analysis of their farms, which will include pulling out sub-economic orchards as a way of reducing costs.

Tru-Cape exports about 60% of its total volume and both local and export clients are concerned about the impact of labour protests on security of supply. And some buyers have already been investigating Chile, Argentina and New Zealand as possible replacement suppliers, said Hughes.

“We cannot afford political rhetoric calling for sanctions against the purchase of SA fruit,” he added. “This is irresponsible, as a change in the export demand will not only impact growers, and their staff, but also all the allied industries such as packaging, transport and shipping.

“It’ll be devastating to the SA fruit industry if we can’t continue to supply and, tragically, this will only create further job losses,” said Hughes.

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