The Western Cape Prestige Agri Workers Forum is concerned about the ever-increasing cost of living and its impact on agri worker households, farming and rural communities. It calls on decision makers to explore ways of “softening” the blow to rural and farming communities.
According to the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), since August 2022 the Thrifty Healthy Food Basket (THFB) increased by a further +R18/ +0.6% for the month of September. The food basket increased by R432 / +14.8% on a year-on-year basis.
BFAP measures the cost of essential healthy eating for low-income households in Mzansi.
Wimpie Paulse, chairperson of the Western Cape Prestige Agri Workers Forum, said these price hikes in food have made it almost impossible for agri workers to afford healthy and nutritious food. A concern shared by the minister of agriculture in the province, Dr Ivan Meyer, he pointed out.
“Price increases have negatively impacted households in the province’s rural areas, whether in food, fuel or inflation. For example, the food basket cost for agri workers has increased tremendously over the last year, especially the essential food products for agri worker households, such as bread, flour, maize meal, samp and cooking oil,” Paulse said.
Workers should be protected
But that is not all, another concern raised by the forum is access to healthy food for low-income households.
“For agri workers, the noose of poverty is tightening, and breaking the cycle requires a progressive, collaborative approach,” said Paulse.
With the rise of global prices such as fuel and transportation, he believes it will take a collective approach to be able to provide low-income households with the essentials to survive.
“The forum urges decision-makers to explore ways of softening the blow of the increased cost of living faced by agri worker households, farming and rural communities. The current situation where citizens are paying 14% more for basic food and personal hygiene items than a year ago is intolerable.”
This only raises the risk of increased hunger, malnutrition, and a deterioration of health and, ultimately, the future, Paulse believes.
Agricultural enterprises have also been hit hard by the increased prices, which again has an impact on the agri workers. This often results in a domino effect, which sees agricultural enterprises forced to cut down on expenses. Agri workers are then faced with reduced working hours, having to pay for services the employer previously covered.
Paulse said agri workers play a critical role in economic development and food security value chains in South Africa. “They should therefore be protected from the increasing cost of living and allowed access to essential food items and the ability to provide for their households.”
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