Cape Town - The new minimum wage for farmworkers is R105 a day, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant announced on Monday.
The new rate, R36 more than the current minimum wage of R69 a day, would take effect from March 1.
"The new minimum wage... is R105 per day for employees who work nine hours a day, or R11.66 per hour, R525 weekly, or R2 274.82 per month," Oliphant told reporters in Pretoria.
This new sectoral determination would be promulgated for a three-year period, "and... during year two and three, wages will be increased by CPI... plus 1.5%."
The labour minister's announcement followed countrywide public hearings on a new minimum wage for the agriculture sector, prompted by violent protests in parts of the Western Cape.
Farm workers in the region have demanded a R150 a day minimum wage.
Oliphant said an economic analysis by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy had found that if the average wage of farmworkers increased to more than R104.98 per day, "many farms will be unable to cover their operating expenses, and hence not be able to pay back borrowings or to afford entrepreneurs remuneration".
The study had also shown "that the real problem is that even at what seems to be an unaffordable minimum wage of R150 per day, most households cannot provide the nutrition that is needed to make them food secure".
Oliphant said all parties on the Employment Conditions Commission had agreed to the new minimum wage except the business representatives, who argued for a lower figure.
Oliphant said an exemption from the new minimum wage would be available to farmers who could provide proof that their financial situation was so poor that they would be forced to shut down operations if their wage bill rose accordingly.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) welcomed the wage agreement, but said it would not signal the end of efforts to improve the plight of farmworkers.
"Cosatu welcomes this agreement, but it is not enough," said Tony Ehrenreich, the labour federation's Western Cape secretary.
He said the agriculture sector as a whole should be transformed to improve relations on farms and between farmers and the state.
"There is an attitude of hostility between farmers and their workers, and to some extent between government and farmers."
Ehrenreich accused the farmers of not coming to the table sooner, criticising them for offering R94 a day when they did.