Following two weeks of violent protests in the Eastern Cape’s Sundays River Valley, it is reported that citrus orchards and packhouses are still deserted as parties attempt to address community concerns.
Food For Mzansi last week reported that the damage to infrastructure resulting from the labour protest were estimated at R70 million with a further R100 million damage to export fruit.
FreshPlaza reports that apart from the incidents of arson, acts of sabotage (ripping out citrus trees, intentionally flooding orchards) also resulted from the strike.
“It is alleged a small number of vigilantes, some of whom, it is claimed, have come from elsewhere, [interfered] to incite violence during the strike and keep workers from returning to work,” it reported.
Protesters supported by the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) claim that some farmers were favouring the contracting of workers from foreign countries to pick citrus fruit at a wage as low as R10 an hour.
The protesters are demanding that workers’ remuneration be increased from the legislated minimum wage of R23.19 to R30.00 per hour. Their list of demands also included a 70%-30% allocation of jobs between local and migrant workers, as well as promotions and a provident fund for farmworkers.
Export estimates down
Meanwhile, rain in the northern provinces has slowed the lemon harvest and as a result, the lemon season is lagging behind its usual pace. The lemon export estimate has been very slightly downsized from 32.3 million to 32.1 million cartons.
The Citrus Growers’ Association pointed out that by the end of week 16 of the harvest season, 4.8 million 15kg cartons of lemons had been packed this year. Of that, 3.5 million cartons have been shipped.
However, last year this time, 7.4 million cartons had already been packed and 5.1 million cartons shipped.
The unrest in Eastern Cape has not spread to the neighbouring Gamtoos Valley and some Sundays River producers have trucked their fruit to Patensie packhouses.
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