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South Africa responds to unrest by promoting fruit and wine exports

South Africas Western Cape Provincial Government has responded to fears of significant farming job losses by stressing the need to explore new export markets for the provinces wine and fruit

Following recent strikes and unrest among farm workers, Western Cape premier, Helen Zille, stated the importance of building up exports to China and other African countries in her recent State of the Province address.

Exports of South African wine to China have grown by 50 per cent a year for the past three years, according to Zille, and China has now become one of South Africa's top 10 export destinations.

Zille said that farming should be protected as it is one of the few remaining sectors in the South African economy able to absorb unskilled labour.

Farmers in the Western Cape are generally paid above the minimum wage set by the Ministry of Labour.

"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 was quoted as saying by China's Xinhua news agency.

"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 neighbours, 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 per cent of South Africa's most fertile land unproductive, under tribal tenure."

Commercial farmers in South Africa have collapsed in number from 120,000 in 1994 to just 37,000 today and those manage to survive without the subsidies that many of their international competitors receive.