Transnet strike costs farmers R1bn

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson says agriculture jobs are under threat

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A transport strike in South Africa, now in its third week, has resulted in farmers losing over $127 million, putting jobs in the agricultural sector under threat, a government minister said on Monday.

Members of the biggest trade union at South African logistics group Transnet ended a strike on Monday, but the stoppage which has hit ports and railways dragged on after a smaller union rejected a revised pay deal.

The strike has curbed exports of metals, cars, fruit and wine to Europe and Asia, as well as imports of vehicle parts and fuel supplies three weeks before the football World Cup starts.

"We are estimating a loss of over 1 billion rand for the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector," Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tina Joemat-Pettersson told reporters.

She said the government was investigating the possibility of declaring the sector a disaster although it has no specific plans to bail out affected farmers.

In the past year, the agriculture sector has shed more than 100,000 jobs and only 30,000 were created in the first quarter, Joemat-Pettersson said, adding: "These jobs are now under threat as the sectors themselves are facing production losses."

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