by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG – THE rejuvenated agricultural sector has emerged the industry offering the biggest hope for employment creation in South Africa, a country burdened by the scourge of rising joblessness, especially among millions of youth.
While other major contributors to Southern Africa’s biggest economy (which is the continent’s second-largest, behind Nigeria) are on the wane, agriculture is on a growth trajectory. Sectors such as manufacturing and mining are among others in decline.
Recent data released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) based on its Quarterly Labour Survey, shows that the country’s agricultural jobs were up 1 percent (or 5 000 jobs) from the third quarter of 2019 and up 4 percent from the last quarter of 2018.
This indicates the sector employs 885 000 workers. This is a rise from 843 000 people working in the agricultural sector.
The most notable jobs gains were in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape Provinces.
Jobs were largely in horticulture and field crop sub-sectors, specifically winter crops.
There were also gains in the livestock sub-sector.
Analysts hailed the prospects of job creation in the recovering sector, which has recently defied successive droughts.
“We are generally optimistic about the near-term agricultural jobs outlook,” said Wandile Sihlobo, the chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz).
Agbiz is an influential association of agribusinesses operating in Southern Africa.
Sihlobo said the potential improvement in summer crop production was high following an 8 percent expansion in area plantings, coupled with the expected increase in wine grapes production and other fruits could lead to an increase in employment in South Africa.
“Albeit, some of this could be seasonal,” he added.
The summer crop growing areas are projected to lead to jobs gains in the second quarter of the year, which will be harvesting time.
The potential of South Africa’s agricultural sector to contribute to employment creation is highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP). NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
Agbiz believes to enhance growth in the sector, a combination of factors is required.
Such strategies include an improvement in the rural investment climate, expansion of export markets, promotion of labour-intensive agriculture subsectors, investment in irrigation and expansion of area farmed where possible.
The agricultural sector in South Africa is on an upward course.
The United States Department of Agriculture and the International Grains Council project a harvest of between 13,3 million tonnes and 13,5 million tonnes of the staple maize.
There are even local forecasts of 14 million tonnes.
The projections are up from the 11,8 million tonnes harvested in the 2018/19 season.
South African farmers have planted 2,5 million hectares of maize, an increase of 9 percent year-on-year.
According to Stats SA, meanwhile, South Africa’s unemployment rate remained at an all-time high of 29,1 percent as of the end of 2019.
The weakness of the economy is blamed for hampering job creation.
– CAJ News