This study investigates the impact of dairy market deregulation on the competitiveness of milk producers who comprise the East Griqualand (EG) study group in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The study uses a microeconomic approach, the unit cost ratio (UCR) method of competitiveness analysis, to assess changes in the relative competitiveness of EG milk producers from 1983 – 2006. Findings of previous research indicate that dairy market deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s caused lower real milk producer prices, increased uncertainty and higher exit rates in the South African dairy industry. Results of the UCR analysis suggest that EG milk producers were not competitive based on the net local price received for milk but were competitive when dairy cattle trading income was included. This suggests that dairy cattle trading income played an important role in enhancing the profitability of EG dairy enterprises in the study period. Further UCR analysis revealed that the top one-third of EG milk producers were relatively competitive from 1983 – 2006 due to higher real milk prices and lower unit costs. A panel data study of individual EG milk producers could be used to identify other important factors affecting milk producer competitiveness over time.


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