The post-1994 South Aftrica does throw up some strange situations. Take, for instance, the latest battle undertaken by Clover Industries’ action committee, which appears to be in some way related to Solidarity, the very active trade union group.

Solidarity, whose driving force is the extremely energetic Dirk Hermann, recently sent out a media statement on behalf of the milk producers that supply Clover. The statement pointed out that prices paid to dairy farmers were between 10 percent and 20 percent lower than two years ago, despite the fact that the cost of feed and other inputs continued to rise by anything from 10 percent to 100 percent a year, and the minimum wages facing farmers have increased by 10 percent a year.

On the Highveld, the extremely wet conditions have affected animal health, resulting in high medication costs and reduced milk yield. And despite the hardship facing farmers, there isn’t too much sign of Clover doing terribly well out of its position as a dominant player.

According to Solidarity, milk producers are in urgent need of an increase in prices but because Clover has so much power and because the large retailers, with whom Clover deals, have even more power, there’s very little chance of the producers getting the increase they need. Further aggravating the situation is the ease and relative cheapness with which milk powder can be imported.

So things have certainly changed from the days when Clover operated pretty much as a dairy board and set the prices to suit the farmers and not the consumers or the large retailers. In those days farmers owned Clover and were an important voting lobby And in those days, Martinus Hermann, the father of Dirk, was the chief executive of Clover.

Today consumers are a more important group of voters and former trade unionists Johnny Copelyn and Marcel Golding appear to have the single largest economic stake in Clover through Hosken Consolidated Investments.

Source: Business Watch – Ann Crotty