‘Agri-tech worker shortage could dampen growth’

With thousands of skilled South Africans emigrating and xenophobia discouraging immigration, Theo Boshoff, CEO of Agbiz, has warned that South Africa’s agriculture sector could become stagnant in the absence of enough skilled agri-tech workers.

‘Agri-tech worker shortage could dampen growth’
A large number of skilled people are emigrating.
Photo: FW Archive
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“There are incredible opportunities for skilled South Africans locally, and it would be tragic if skilled people left the country when they are so desperately needed here,” he told Farmer’s Weekly.

“While employment equity is very important, we are honestly struggling to get enough qualified people of any race to fill positions within the sector.

“Skills like those of agricultural engineers and agricultural engineering technologists take a long time to be developed, and they are therefore part of government’s critical skills list, which will enable foreign nationals to obtain work visas.”

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Bennie van Zyl, TLU SA’s general manager, also expressed concern about the large number of skilled people leaving the country. According to him, recent reports indicated that, in the first half of the year alone, a record number of skilled South Africans (more than 11 000) had been approved to enter New Zealand, with more than 28 000 applications still needing to be processed.

Van Zyl added that the reality of daily life in South Africa was fuelling these migration figures. “Actual action, and action that shows results, is necessary to address the situation.”

Meanwhile, a team of human rights experts from the UN had determined that the South African government was not meeting its obligations in terms of protecting and promoting the human rights of immigrants. They said they had observed that discrimination against foreign nationals in South Africa had become institutionalised, both in government policy and broader South African society.

“This [leads] to violations of the right to life and physical integrity, and rights to an adequate standard of living, and to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as elevated risks of arbitrary detention, torture and refoulement,” the delegation said in a statement.

With regard to government policy, Annelize Crosby, Agbiz’s head of legal intelligence, expressed concern that government’s current review of its National Labour Migration Policy could put a damper on the influx of skilled foreign nationals.

“Imposing quotas on foreign workers is not in line with the Southern African Development Community policy to enable the movement of people across the borders of the region,” she said.