False Accusations: Bad Commercial Farming Industry

It is indeed a horrible pity that more often than not, negative reporting sells best in the media. One cannot blame them, as sensationalism sells and just like any other industry, media is also a business. However, the negative publicity the wine industry and commercial farming sector has received in recent years, is not only damaging to the image of South African wine, it also harms the very people biased reports claim they want to help.

I cannot recall who uttered the words, but in paraphrasing, they said something like, “Malema would have never had a leg to stand on calling for land seizures if all commercial farmers were FairTrade accredited.”

Many report findings are made out to be representative of the entire wine industry, when we never see these people in our area analyzing labour practices of people like us, FairTrade accredited producers. The Western Cape’s agricultural sector is painted with one broad brush stroke, when I’m personally quite confident that gross labour transgressions are very much in the minority.

I digress there will always be those bad apples amongst any crop. Thus, stating that the entire commercial farming sector is completely above-board and no rotten practices exist, would be both naïve and foolish. However, on the opposite side of the same coin, to claim oneself as a statistically accurate researcher or above-board journalist; making sweeping statements insinuating the entire commercial farming sector (and by that inference, the wine industry) is rotten, is also foolish.

It is a pity, because such reports harm people like us, wine producers with more stringent labour regulations than South Africa’s famed tight labour laws. Our FairTrade project assures our employees receive the best possible staff-housing, conditions of employment, adult education and perks one could possibly have as a semi-skilled worker, anywhere in the world. Actually, education sophistication, amenities and technological advancement amongst FairTrade learners are better than many high-income-earner children receive. A feat we are proud of and will continue to develop.

It is a pity our land-based empowerment project is on ice. The reason sadly being a lack of cooperation and support from the national government departments; one that claims to put rural empowerment and land redistribution first. Inadequacies and budget-constraints tend to relegate responsibility in partnering with farmers to help address land-ownership imbalances. We’re hoping we can revive these aspirations in the near future with the very efficient Agriculture Western Cape department.

We will continue to deliver a product that is produced in a responsible manner and invite any interested party or industry skeptic to see what can be done. Being the world’s largest single FairTrade project gives us authority to question the negative image and challenge beliefs that commercial farming puts rural peoples last. We also challenge government’s view that our industry wants to claim all profits, benefits and land-wealth to ourselves. It is an easy electioneering ploy, but devoid of statistical proof. If government actually made an attempt to meet those who want to empower rural people half-way, there would be little fuel for the land-inspired emotive anger in more radical leftist circles.

 Stop blaming the cow for spoilt milk, when one continues to buy that milk from a grocer that refuses to turn on their fridges.


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