CAPE TOWN, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Western Cape Provincial Government, anticipating significant job losses following the recent farm worker strikes and unrest, is trying to promote the province's wine and fruit in new markets such as China and Africa, Premier Helen Zille said on Friday in her State of the Province address.
South African wine exports to China have been growing by 50 percent annually for the past three years, Zille told MPs.
Although South Africa only supplies 3 percent of the Chinese wine market, China has now become one of South Africa's top 10 export destinations, she said.
Shandong Province in China and the Western Cape are sister provinces, both belonging to the Regional Leader Forum grouping. The Western Cape also has bilateral agreements with Shandong on agriculture, trade and investment, economic co-operation, as well as governmental co-operation.
In order to explore the Chinese and African markets, efforts must be made to protect farming as one of the few remaining sectors in the South African economy able to absorb unskilled labor, Zille said.
Western Cape farmers have traditionally been paid above the minimum wage set by the Ministry of Labor. For example, in the farming town of De Doorns before the recent strike, the average cost-to-company remuneration for seasonal workers was 100 rand (about 11 U.S. dollars) per worker per day, according to Zille.
"That is one of the reasons that so many seasonal workers have traditionally sought work in the Western Cape from countries such as Zimbabwe and Lesotho, and other Provinces, particularly the Eastern Cape," Zille said.
Referring to the lack of statistics on the movement of mainly seasonal farm workers, Zille said she welcomed the national Department of Home Affairs' recently initiated survey into the migration of farm labor, which will reveal many of the underlying challenges that gave rise to the tragic conflicts that unfolded in December and January.
"There is a particularly tragic irony in the fact that farm workers leave the most fertile agricultural regions in the sub- continent, from our Eastern Seaboard to our northern neighbors, to seek work on the stony mountain slopes of De Doorns. As the National Development Plan notes, the key target of land reform must be to address the legacy that has left 30 percent of South Africa's most fertile land unproductive, under tribal tenure," said Zille.
The number of commercial farmers in South Africa has decreased from 120,000 in 1994 to 37,000 today. Those that remain viable without the subsidies accorded to their international competitors, are a precious resource that must be sustained for food security.
She warned that increasing mechanization will change farming as a major source to absorb unskilled labor.