By Jessie Taylor 


Bumper harvest brings hope for economic recovery

The agriculture sector recorded a bumper harvest in the 2020/ 2021 season. The successful year not only added to the economy but also created jobs and optimism among agribusinesses and brought  with it hope of strong economic recovery after the pandemic -an endeavour in which the agricultural sector has a strategic role to play.


Reaping the rewards of a healthy harvest

The agriculture sector is one of the few that has proven itself resilient despite the pandemic – highlighted by the year’s excellent performance – and has been earmarked as a key focus in South Africa’s economic recovery. Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza says the agricultural sector had proven to be one of the industries that had bolstered the economy and created job opportunities.

The increased exports have set a strong benchmark for this year, and experts anticipate it could bring record export and production numbers. It is anticipated that the sector could reach a record export of R173-billion this year – higher than the R167-billion generated in 2018 and R160-billion in 2020. 

In addition, the Agbiz/IDC Agribusiness Confidence Index reached a new high during the last quarter of the year – a result of the favourable outlook generated by the production season. The survey, which measures agribusinesses sentiment about the South African business landscape, was carried out in November among businesses in all agricultural sub-sectors across South Africa. 

The index’s results reached 74, the second-highest level since its inception in 2001. Any level above the 50-point mark (neutral) implies that agribusinesses are optimistic about operating conditions in the country. 

The strong performance of the sector also led to increased employment opportunities. Agricultural employment increased by 3% year-on-year, in the third quarter of 2021. This translated to 829 000 jobs – significantly higher than the long-term agricultural employment of 780 000, said Hon. Didiza.


Growing the economy

The Minister says her department aims to build on the sector’s success in the coming year through the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan. She says several rounds of negotiations and consultations have taken place between government, business, and labour bodies and should conclude in the first quarter of 2022.

The Master Plan forms part of the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. It will identify industries that can play a critical role in bolstering economic performance.

The agriculture sector has, for long, held promise as a driver of economic activity. Gross farming income earned from all agricultural products increased by 15,8% to R327-million in 2020, compared to R282-million in 2019. This was due to the 37% increase in income from field crops, 18% in horticulture and 6% in animal products.

The Minister’s Master Plan for the sector could create around 317 000 new jobs, most of which will be in the private sector among producers of fruits, nuts, wine and vegetables, and agro-processing. Expanding production and promoting export is expected to contribute around R80-billion in gross production value.

In addition to the Master Plan, Minister Didiza says her department is working to establish a body that will drive inclusion in the sector.

“We are moving towards establishing the Land Reform and Agriculture Agency, which will be instrumental in driving progress on land redistribution and post-transfer farmer support. The details of this agency will be announced in the coming year. We have made progress in conceptualising its structure,” says Minister Didiza.

There are several success stories from the industry over the last year:

An agreement was concluded with The Philippines, which has seen 65 471 cartons of citrus exported. The new market has the potential for the export of 20 000 tons of citrus fruit, valued at around R205-million, annually.

There has been improved market access of exported lemons to China. With local lemon production expected to grow by 175 000 metric tons by 2024, this protocol comes at an opportune time for South African farmers. In December, South Africa also signed a protocol with China on the export of pears. 

In 2021, 22% of South Africa’s total pear exports landed in the Far East and Asian markets, and this is likely to increase with the new agreement. Trade started under the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which holds the promise of enhanced trade, cooperation and investment for the agricultural sector. Prior to the agreement, South Africa sent 41% of its agricultural exports to African countries, bringing in around R130-billion a year.

The continued demand for South African produce and the increased production and healthy harvests promise to drive the economy and bolster the country’s recovery plans.



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