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Key findings of commercial agriculture census, 2017- South Africa

The total number of farms/farming units involved in the commercial agriculture industry in 2017 was 40 122.


The largest proportion of farms was in farming of animals (13 639 farms or 33,9% of the total), followed by mixed farming (12 458 or 31,1%) and growing of cereals and other crops (8 559 or 21,3%). Between 2007 and 2017, the proportion of farms in mixed farming increased by 8,4 percentage points (from a percentage contribution of 22,7% in 2007 to 31,1% in 2017).

The proportion of farms growing cereals and other crops lost 13,0 percentage points over the same period (from a percentage contribution of 34,3% in 2007 to 21,3% in 2017). The province with the highest number of farms in 2017 was Free State (7 951 farms or 19,8% of the national total), followed by Western Cape (6 937 or 17,3%), North West (4 920 or 12,3%) and Northern Cape (4 829 or 12,0%). The provinces with the lowest number of farms in 2017 were Gauteng (2 291 or 5,7%), Mpumalanga (2 823 or 7,0%) and Limpopo (3 054 or 7,6%). The proportions of farms found in each province were relatively stable between 2007 and 2017. In each year the two provinces with the most farms were Free State and Western Cape, and the three provinces with the fewest farms were Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Total income for the commercial agriculture industry in 2017 was R332,8 billion, which was 288% higher than the R85,9 billion recorded for 2007. In 2017, the major contributor to total income was farming of animals (R120,8 billion or 36,2%), followed by mixed farming (R95,0 billion or 28,6%) and horticulture (R65,7 billion or 19,8%). Comparing 2007 and 2017, the largest gain in percentage share of income was in horticulture (+2,4 percentage points, from 17,4% in 2007 to 19,8% in 2017). Over the same period, the largest loss in percentage share was in mixed farming ( 4,1 percentage points, from 32,7% to 28,6%).

The province contributing the most to total income in 2017 was Western Cape (R64,3 billion or 19,3%), followed by Free State (R46,9 billion or 14,1%), North West (R39,7 billion or 11,9%), Mpumalanga (R38,4 billion or 11,6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (R34,0 billion or 10,2%). The provinces with the largest gains in the share of national income between 2007 and 2017 were Limpopo (+2,0 percentage points, from 7,4% to 9,4%), Gauteng (+1,9 percentage points, from 7,8% to 9,7%) and Eastern Cape (+1,5 percentage points, from 6,6% to 8,1%). Western Cape lost the biggest percentage share (-2,4 percentage points, from 21,7% to 19,3%).

The total number of persons employed in commercial agriculture as on 30 June 2018 was 757 628, down from 769 594 in 28 February 2007 ( 1,6%). In terms of employment, the major commercial agriculture activity in 2017 was horticulture (268 740 employees or 35,5% of the total), followed by mixed farming (185 863 or 24,5%) and farming of animals (162 116 or 21,4%). There was a large drop in the percentage share of employment in mixed farming between 2007 and 2018 ( 10,3 percentage points, from 34,8% to 24,5%).

There were gains in percentage share in growing of cereals and other crops (+4,7 percentage points) and farming of animals (+3,8 percentage points). Western Cape was by far the largest provincial employer in 2018 (186 997 employees or 24,7% of the national total), followed by Limpopo (97 478 or 12,9%) and KwaZulu-Natal (96 206 or 12,7%). The provinces with the lowest number of commercial agriculture employees were Gauteng (36 517 or 4,8%) and North West (57 758 or 7,6%). Between 2007 and 2018, Western Cape lost the largest number of jobs (-17 516), followed by Mpumalanga (-13 572) and Free State (-10 329). This was offset by gains in the following provinces: Limpopo (+22 600 jobs), Gauteng (+12 003 jobs) and Eastern Cape (+6 314 jobs).


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