• Zimbabwe’s 2019 maize crop is set to come in at half that of 2018 and Mozambique’s at a quarter. To make it worse, SA will probably not have much excess — and the result is fast-rising maize prices.

  • The available data suggests that Zimbabwe, Kenya and Mozambique will collectively need to import about 2.5 million tonnes of maize in the 2019/20 marketing year in order to satisfy the domestic demand in the respective countries.

  • The expansion in most agricultural subsectors in South Africa has been export-driven, particularly in the horticultural sector. This sector is labour-intensive, and the expansion also brought jobs.

  • In economics, natural experiments are hard to come by, but once in a while, you hit a jackpot without even paying a lottery ticket.

  • I am always amazed by how fast the sentiment can change in the global agriculture market. Just a few weeks ago, agricultural analysts across the world were concerned that the excessive wet weather conditions in the U.S. would lead fewer plantings and poor yields. This would have subsequently led to tight global maize supplies.

  • These past few days I spent a bit of time discussing maize production conditions in the Southern and Eastern African regions, but there are other important developments that are worth keeping an eye on here in South Africa.

  • My comments on the spreading of African Swine Fever in Asian countries have largely been on the market perspective – what the virus means for the global pork supply, consumer prices, etc.

  • The effects of changing the climate, which is, of course, a global challenge, have been felt in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia in the recent past. This has been through erratic rainfalls and more frequent occurrences of droughts and floods.

  • The effects of the changing climate, which is, of course, a global challenge, have been felt in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia in the recent past. This has been through erratic rainfalls and more frequent occurrences of droughts and floods.

  • Erratic weather conditions and more frequent droughts and floods are exacerbating uncertainty in the agricultural sector. While these have largely been a phenomenon of sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries, the Americas are also starting to experience these harsh conditions.

  • If the U.S. maize crop was at an advanced stage of growth, the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report would have convinced us that the supplies will be in better shape than initially feared.

  • In the 2017/18 production season, North West average maize yields were at 4.4 tonnes per hectare, and the five-year average yield, up to 2017/18, is 3.7 tonnes per hectare (swayed down by the yield levels of the drought years – 2015-2016). 

  • The minister of Agriculture - Thoko Didiza- 

  • There was little of note in terms of new policy from the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, in her budget vote speech, but rather a sense of urgency to implementing land reform in a sustainable way.

  • Budding blueberry sector offers fruitful job prospects- South Africa .

  • South Africa's 2019 maize output expected to shrink by 13%-

  • While memories of ‘Day Zero’ warnings in late 2017 and early 2018 might be fading in some Cape Town residents’ minds, since weather conditions have improved in 2018, the effects of the severe water shortages are still vivid in some farming communities.

  • A number of countries in Africa have in the recent past reformed their cannabis regulations – moving it away from being a prohibited drug to a source of income as an exportable commodity.

  • A spectre of cannabis is hovering above Africa. The boom is on the horizon and for some countries, it will be a slow burn.

  • The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey data (Q2: 2019) show that South Africa’s primary agricultural employment fell by 0.2% from the corresponding period last year to 842 000 .  The subsectors that faced a notable reduction were mainly field crops, the game industry and forestry. In the case of field crops, the reduction in employment was unsurprising following a reduction in activity in the fields on the back of a poor harvest in the 2018/19 season, all of which is underpinned by unfavourable weather conditions earlier in the season. From a regional perspective, a notable decline in employment was recorded in the Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo, whilst other provinces saw a marginal uptick. 
    Will there be a change in the current jobs’ trajectory?
    The near-term agricultural jobs trajectory will be influenced by, amongst other factors, weather conditions, and levels of investment in the agricultural sector. As best as we can tell, there are prospects for good weather conditions in the coming months which could support agricultural activity and subsequent employment. But this might not assure levels of employment which far outpace the trends we have witnessed over the past few years, as illustrated in Figure 1. On an investment front, the outlook hinges on the broader policy direction of the agricultural sector, notably land reform and water rights. There are a number of developments on the land reform front at the moment, but the final policy direction will be an important determinant of the direction that South Africa’s agricultural sector will be taking. The same is true for water policy, and infrastructure thereafter.
    Even if we assume positive outcomes from the aforementioned factors in the coming months, the effects on jobs may be marginal. Fundamental change is needed to break away from the current trend, and to reach the targets of the agricultural job that are envisaged in the National Development Plan.1 By using the word – fundamental change – we are referring to (1) a need for a boost in agricultural productivity, (2) an improvement in rural investment climate, (3) expansion of export markets, (4) promotion of labour-intensive agriculture, and (5) expansion of area farmed where possible.
    At a practical level, if the underutilised land in the former homelands, underperforming land reform farms, and other parts of the country are not brought into full production with a key focus on labour-intensive subsectors, notable job creation in South Africa’s agriculture sector might not materialise. Labour-intensive subsectors specifically refer to the horticulture and field crop subsectors which currently employ two-thirds of the primary agriculture labour force of 842 000. The other subsector – livestock – can also be prioritised, specifically in areas where environmental factors do not permit horticulture and field crops. This would all happen at a time where there is a growing demand for horticultural, and protein-rich diets in the global market which is underpinned by the changing consumer patterns towards healthier diets. Moreover, global beef demand is also gathering steam, particularly driven by China. All this presents an opportunity for South Africa to partially address its twin challenges of rural unemployment and low economic growth.
    South Africa is still lagging behind in its effort of meeting a target of creating a million agricultural jobs by 2030 as envisaged in the National 
    provinces containing former homelands that still have tracts of underutilised, arable land that can be prioritised for agricultural expansion are KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.These provinces collectively have between 1.6 million to 1.8 million hectares of underutilised land, according to a 2015 study by McKinsey Global Institute.
    Also, worth noting is that these particular provinces are characterised by higher levels of unemployment and poverty, which in our view, would make sense for the government to prioritise them for agricultural development in the near term. As noted above, the starting point for this process would be to articulate a clear policy framework on land reform and water rights, which will encourage investment in the agricultural sector. Concerted investments would be required for land preparations and provision of irrigation infrastructure, amongst other aspects, to unlocking growth and employment, and associated positive welfare effects.
    The focus for provinces that already have extensive farming could be on ensuring that there are export markets for products being produced. Further, the ports infrastructure for delivering the agricultural produce to export markets should be part of the “fundamental change” to boost South Africa’s agricultural fortunes and jobs. This is specifically the case to, but not limited, the Western Cape. The province is a leading agricultural jobs creator, but for that to be sustained, there must be market access for the produce of the province. Animal and plant health as key pillars of trade need consistent attention. The effects of animal health were felt earlier this year in the livestock sector, specifically in the wool and beef industries, where a lapse in biosecurity controls severely compromised the industries' export potential. Overall, the quest for boosting employment in South Africa’s agricultural sector will need various interventions. Fortunately, many of these are within the policymakers’ reach.