South Africa: end to strike should clear road for fruit exports

More News Top Stories
South Africa: end to strike should clear road for fruit exports

Farm worker unrest in South Africa's Western Cape has come to a halt, following a reluctant call by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to return to normal operations - at least for the time being. uvas_64053169 small

Although a clear solution has yet to be found, assurances came from across the board that importers could count on South African produce.

Anton Kruger of the Fresh Produce Exporters' Forum said the industry was grateful to know that trade would continue for the foreseeable future.

"From the organized agriculture side and from the exporter forum side, we are doing everything we can to ensure we have stability and consistent, high-quality fruit. So we’re engaging with various parties and from Fruit South Africa’s side, we are a member. Daily exporters and producers are involved as well," Kruger told

"I think we are realizing it’s a situation that’s not only an agriculture issue. It goes with poverty and stability. It’s a broader issue but we realized there is a role we play. We are part of the process and we want to find a long-term solution."

Agri Wes-Cape's Porchia Adams echoed the same need to involve agriculture, yet reach for a greater solution.

"We need all parties involved, especially government. Government was very quite throughout this and we were fighting on our own. I think it’s the government’s responsibility to look at it holistically. Yes, people’s circumstances are dire. People are poor. They are hungry. They are desolate. But it’s not agriculture’s responsibility alone to look after those factors," the communications manager said.

"Social issues are quite significant. But once again, it’s not our responsibility alone. We do our contribution and we will continue making our contribution in that sphere. But I think government needs to show the world that they are in charge of situations like that."

For the time being, Adams said she was pleased to see the industry getting back on its feet.

"Although there’s a bit of a backlog, it’s not as severe as anticipated. Now that we’ve sort of picked up on momentum, we’re going to be able to deliver the season fairly accurately according to the planning that we had. We’re grateful for that. It’s important," she said.

Even Cosatu Provincial Secretary Tony Ehrenreich threw his support behind exports - a stark contrast to his recent call to boycott all fruit from "bad farmers."

"The main point now is, the strike is off. That clears the road for exports.  We are asking our trading partners to continue buying the fruit as before," he told

"We’re packing the food to export it to the countries we currently supply and we will continue to do that from here, supporting them to buy South African fruit."

Ehrenreich was not without biting commentary, however. If no agreeable solution can be found, he said "strikes will continue indefinitely into the future."

In an official Cosatu statement, discontent was refocused on farmer representative Agri SA.

"Strike is over in the W Cape - for now. Cosatu W Cape will be calling for the Cosatu Head Office to drive and coordinate a National Strike against Agri-SA and their bad members," the union published on its website.

Cosatu made clear, however, that its call to end the strike came hesitantly, taking into account that demonstrating workers could not earn a pay check.

"We understand that even though the anger of workers makes them want to continue the strike, we have to consider the impact on children when there is no food in the house. We are also mindful of the fact that these industries belong to the people of South Africa, and while we want to ruin bad farmers, we don`t want to ruin our Industries," Cosatu explained.

Meanwhile, Agri SA President Johannes Möller welcomed the end to action.

“Whilst we acknowledge that farm workers’ voice should be heard, we cannot condone their advisors and representatives’ actions which led vulnerable people into an unprotected and violent strike.  Continuous misrepresentations on what was achievable within the legal framework and a view to economic sustainability, were also grossly disregarded by people who’s credibility were accepted by especially the large number of seasonable and unemployed people”, Möller said in a media statement.

The farm worker minimum wage is up for review once again in March. Although a wage increase is expected, the new rate and agreements cannot yet be predicted.

Subscribe to our newsletter