Huge shortage of skilled sheep shearers in SA

Jaco Spamer works on his sheep farm in Beaufort West in the Karoo during the lockdown.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

There is a serious shortage of qualified and skilled sheep shearers in SA and to address this, AgriSeta has allocated R1.4m for training.

Zenzele Myeza, CEO of the agricultural sector’s training authority, said the funds were allocated to the National Wool Growers Association (NWGA) which would train sheep shearers and wool classers to assist with the skills shortage in the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces.

“The short-term aim of this project is to empower these farmers so that they can optimise their income and to address the skills shortage in the wool sector, which will inevitably address the unemployment of youth and women in the Eastern Cape and Free State as they are the largest wool producing provinces in the country,” Myeza said.

He said the long-term aim of the project was to adequately equip facilities in the tribal lands, thereby creating shearing hubs where producers could collectively shear their wool.

And because of the higher volumes, they could have greater bargaining power with the agricultural businesses to which they delivered their wool, he said.

Myeza said AgriSeta had held a planning session in 2019, which led to working through strategic partnerships with both public and private sector entities to advance skills development.

“Partnerships are more important now than ever — to revive the economy and to provide the necessary skills for the work that awaits us,” Myeza said.

AgriSeta’s partnerships, which serve to protect jobs in the rural economy for years to come, are worth  R147m.and besides the NWGA allocation, strategic partnerships include:

  • R11.7m to the Agricultural Research Council towards postgraduate critical research areas;
  • R14.7m to the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Land Union for unemployed graduates to be placed in commercial farms in KwaZulu-Natal; and
  • R12m to the University of Pretoria (department of veterinary services) and capacity building through collaboration with institutions of higher learning and the department of agriculture to strengthen capacity with regard to a new generation of vaccines and the implementation of early detection measures  for infectious and parasitic diseases.

NWGA general manager Leon de Beer said more than 50% of the shearers and wool handlers in South Africa were from Lesotho.

“The high and ever-increasing number of unemployed people in SA has put pressure on the industry to train and employ more South African citizens in the sheep shearing industry to address unemployment.

“Many Lesotho shearers are now stuck in Lesotho due to lockdown regulations,” De Beer said.

The funds are to be used to train 700 SA sheep shearers in basic and advanced blade as well as machine shearing. Also, 300 people will be trained in wool classing.

De Beer said the partnership was crucial towards addressing the shortage of qualified and skilled shearers and wool handlers in South Africa to harvest more than 45-million kilogrammes of wool annually and prepare the clip for the export market.

By Zipo-zenkosi Ncokazi

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