The North West Provincial Legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Economic Development, Environment, Tourism, Rural and Agricultural Development chaired by Hon. Bitsa Lenkopane has expressed great shock and disappointment on the proposed closure of South Africa’s largest cheese factory in Lichtenburg by Dairy Group Clover.
Hon. Lenkopane said the North West province’s loss of the factory to KwaZulu-Natal province due to disruptions of electricity and water supplies is worrying. “These disruptions have hit its cheese production hard, especially in the treatment and pasteurization of milk. Pasteurization is a process in which packaged and non-packaged milk is treated with mild heat, usually to less than 100 °C (212 °F), to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life.
“The Committee is more perplexed about the closure, considering that this comes at the time whereby the province is seriously battling with COVID-19 pandemic, rural development, recruitment of investors and high rates of unemployment. We are also concerned about how the closure will negatively impact on issues of employment to the surrounding communities, and how both the national and provincial department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and Agriculture and Rural Development failed to take the advantage of the factory by establishing a skill transfer partnership for purposes of local farmers and villagers,” said Hon. Lenkopane.
She said the partnership was going to assist in curbing the current outcry on the closure and that although the factory will have closed, local farmer and villagers will have something to sustain and be independent.
The Portfolio Committee has challenged both departments on their roles on rural development in terms rural infrastructure development, skills development and skills transfer to local farmers; Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise and, Villagers in General. “This is informed by the fact that almost all potential stakeholders have cattle; hence it becomes important for them to be trained on cheese production. Furthermore, the Committee will challenge both departments to find a way of using their departmental grants, which are always returned to treasury or redirected to other provinces as a result of under-expenditure,” said Hon. Lenkopane.
The Committee has further urged the departments to start to consider using these grants to develop infrastructure for potential stakeholders and establish partnerships in order to acquire Cheese Production skills as most of community members have some means of production (cattle and land). “This will ensure that rural development in the province is independent and self-sustaining and will be able to contribute positively on issues of job creation and food security as the key mandate of these departments. The Committee will further engage with the municipal, water rights Boards and Eskom to prioritize industrial economy when cutting water and electricity as this also affect and threatens both recruitment of investors to the province and food security initiatives,” said Hon. Lenkopane.
Source: Government of South Africa