Motlanthe: Government wants agriculture sector to grow

Farmworkers in De Doorns recently striked for higher wages. (David Harrison, M&G)

Farmworkers in De Doorns recently striked for higher wages. (David Harrison, M&G)

"As government, we have an interest in ensuring the industry becomes profitable and continues to grow," he said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the end of a "dialogue" with farmers and commercial farming organisations in the Western Cape town of Paarl, he stressed the importance of the farming sector remaining competitive internationally.

"The point is ... how do we draw back the value chain and ensure that we remain competitive?" Motlanthe said.

Earlier, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said farmers and the government needed to start talking about export value chains.

"A huge part of the production here in South Africa is ending up in somebody else's pocket," he said.

Among issues raised by those at the dialogue was the recent increase in the minimum farmworkers' wage to R105 a day, the quality of water available to farmers, increasing electricity costs, and transport infrastructure such as roads.

The dialogue comes two days before President Jacob Zuma delivers his 2013 State Of The Nation address in Parliament. Motlanthe was accompanied by Davies, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, her deputy Marius Fransman, and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

The event – billed as "a dialogue with the farming sector for the advancement of sustainable rural development and social cohesion" – follows a period of violent farmworker strikes across rural regions of the Western Cape, and the announcement by Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant last week of a rise in the minimum farm wage from R69 to R105 a day. – Sapa

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