• Today I didn’t have to stretch my head looking for a positive agricultural story to end the week with, as is sometimes the case.

  • Often said is the statement that the macroeconomic standing of the agricultural sector has diminished over time – and this argument is supported by the sector’s declining share of GDP, which fell from 4.2% in the 1996 to 2.4% in 2018.

  • Not many agricultural subsectors are a testimony to the export-led growth ambition that the South African government is currently focusing on such as avocados.

  • There has been a revolution in the Kenyan avocado export market, characterized by enormous growth over the past three years. After remaining a relatively small exporter of avocado for a prolonged period, Kenya has now overtaken South Africa to be the leading exporter of avocado in the continent and the seventh largest in the world.

  • Agriculture has come under the spotlight in South Africa. Not only did the severe droughts experienced in 2015 to 2016 highlight the sector’s importance to South Africa’s economic growth and job creation ambitions, the recent policy proposal on land expropriation without compensation drew attention to the agricultural sector’s importance in ensuring national food security, while also addressing inequality.

  • t is often said that the macroeconomic standing of the agricultural sector has diminished over time – and this argument is supported by the sector’s declining share of GDP, which fell from 4.2% in 1996 to 2.4% in 2018.

  • The Western Cape is the leading producer of South Africa’s winter crops, which are wheat, barley and canola. It is also in this province where plantings typically begin at the end of April, while in other provinces it's around midyear.

  • The Western Cape is the leading producer of South Africa’s winter crops, which are wheat, barley and canola. It is also in this province where plantings typically begin at the end of April, while in other provinces it’s around midyear.

  • As the 2019/20 production season begins in a number of countries in the northern hemisphere, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its initial global production forecasts of major grains.

  • The South Africa-China wool trade story is back in the headlines, but this time around in a good way. Nearly two months since the Chinese authorities temporarily suspended wool imports from South Africa because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak earlier in the year, the country’s authorities issued a notification on May 8 stating that the ban will be lifted that same day.

  • One would assume the month that most excites farmers and agricultural role-players would be the one in which they harvest their crops, especially in a good season. In the case of SA that might not be true.

  • With South Africa’s meat prices being in deflation over the past few months, one would easily assume that the beef industry has recovered from the 2015/16 drought which led to a reduction in the herd. Figure 1 illustrates South Africa’s cattle herd, and boy, we are not back to levels we were before the drought.

    So, where did the illusion that cattle herd has somewhat recovered come from?

    You see, the years following this period of higher cattle slaughtering when farmers couldn’t feed their stock — 2017 and 2018 — was for rebuilding the herds, which meant a reduction in slaughtering pace. This process was reflected on meat prices, which at the time were rising double digits, particularly from February 2017 until March 2018. Thereafter, we started to see some cooling off in meat prices, as slaughtering activity, on a monthly basis, began to gain momentum, albeit not back at levels during 2015/16 drought. In March 2019, South Africa’s meat prices were actually in deflation, registering -1.1%, according to data from Stats SA.

    But the factors leading to the deflation in meat prices wasn’t a recovery in slaughtering activity, but the ban on South Africa’s red meat exports following the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in Limpopo earlier in the year. The theory at the time, simplistically, was that a ban on exports would lead to increased domestic meat supplies, and therefore a decline in prices. It had less to do with the herd rebuilding progress.

    Because of this, the meat price deflation story could soon be over because of the following. First, a number of African and Middle East countries have recently lifted the ban on South Africa’s beef exports.  This means the impact of the foot-and-mouth disease might not be as severe as initially expected. Second, it is worth noting that South Africa’s cattle slaughtering activity is slowing, and this could add support to prices in the near term. Third, aside from red meat, poultry products prices could lift somewhat in the coming months, as there is likely to be an uptick in import tariffs.


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  • SA is not in a great position to take advantage of the US-China trade war, but there are opportunities on the margins.

  • I just read an insightful, recently published paper from the International Monetary Fund titled: Is the African Continental Free Trade Area a Game Changer for the Continent?

  • If I do not write about South Africa’s first quarter of 2019 agricultural trade figures, one would assume that there have been limited positive developments in this sector as the past few months have been clouded by unwelcoming news.

  • If I do not write about South Africa’s first quarter of 2019 agricultural trade figures, one would assume that there have been limited positive developments in this sector as the past few months have been clouded by unwelcoming news.

  • While the discussion about African swine fever has largely focused on China, the likes of Vietnam are also reeling from its effects. The Vietnamese authorities are now asking farmers to diversify away from pork to other livestock – a difficult task, I imagine, for a nation that is among the world’s top ten highest per capita pork consumers.

  • The agricultural economy, by nature, is wobbly relative to other sectors of the economy as its fortunes are largely driven by a factor beyond the control of humankind – the weather. And in the recent past weather conditions have increasingly been a challenge as exemplified by frequent drought in South Africa.

  • The agricultural economy, by nature, is wobbly relative to other sectors of the economy as its fortunes are largely driven by a factor beyond the control of humankind – the weather.

  • When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its preliminary estimates for the 2019/20 global grains and oilseeds production, the sentiment in the global agricultural market was that there would be large food supplies, and most analysts focused on other risks such as the US-China trade dispute.