Agriculture

Minister faces the future with optimism as 2021 ends ‘on a positive note for agriculture’

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza (MP), is excited to announce that the South African agricultural sector is ending this year on a positive note.

The minister said that the 2020/21 season brought bumper harvest in field crops and horticulture, leading to increased exports from a production perspective.

She says that estimates by analysts suggest that South Africa might reach a record export of about R173 billion this year, which will surpass the 2020’s agriculture exports of about R160 billion, which was the second highest on record, and could even pass the record exports of 2018, which was R167 billion.

Didiza says that the exports and markets are diversified, which speaks to the broad-based performance of the agricultural production and export markets.

“Although our country is challenged with higher unemployment in many sectors, agriculture is one of the sectors of the economy that assist with job opportunities. What is encouraging is that, in the third quarter of 2021, agricultural employment increased by 3% year on year to 829 000, which is well above the long-term agricultural employment of 780 000.

“The role players in the sector are optimistic about business conditions in the country, as was demonstrated in the Agbiz/IDC Agribusiness Confidence Index’s results in the last quarter of the year, which, at 74, is the second-highest level since its inception in 2001,” states the minister.

She said that at the end of last year, the department successfully concluded lengthy negotiations with The Philippines on citrus exports and the first shipments went through in June 2021. Since then, a total of 65 471 cartons of citrus were exported to The Philippines. 

Furthermore, says the minister, improved market access for South African lemon to China under ideal temperature conditions was achieved, through a revised protocol signed with China in September 2021. 

Now 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.

“We have, as recent as 13 December 2021, also signed a protocol with China on the export of pears to China. This protocol is expected to raise the current 22% of pears South Africa is exporting to the Far East.”

Didiza says they will build on this optimism in the coming year, specifically with our Agriculture and Agro-processing Masterplan, which has notched good progress after several rounds of negotiations and consultations among government, business, and labour.

“There is broad agreement on the need to generate practical and meaningful solutions to promote inclusive growth, access to finance, greater market access for farmers, mobilizing investments, and creating decent working conditions for farmworkers. The negotiations are now advanced and should conclude in the first quarter of 2022.

“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,” said the minister.

Overall, says the minister, we look into 2022 with optimism.

The 2021/22 production season started with good rains across the country. There are areas where the rains have been excessive, and farmers faced delays with plantings.

“Still, we are receiving feedback that there is time for plantings to be completed as soon as there is sunshine. We are monitoring animal diseases that tend to be prevalent during wet seasons, and we will be interacting with livestock role players closely in the coming weeks and months.”

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