Agriculture’s contribution to the South African economy has decreased over past four decades, as the economy has gradually become more advanced. In 1960, agriculture constituted 9,1% of the total economy; this decreased to only 2,3% in 2008. Though this decrease would seem to be a negative trend from a farmer’s perspective, it signals that the South African economy is reaching maturity as the secondary and tertiary sectors become more important.
Maize is most widely grown – followed by wheat, oats, sugar cane and sunflowers. The government has been developing programmes to promote small-scale farming and to boost job creation. Citrus and deciduous fruits are exported, as are locally produced wines and flowers.
South Africa has both well-developed commercial farming and more subsistence-based production in the deep rural areas.
Covering 1.2-million km2, South Africa is one-eighth the size of the United States and has seven climatic regions, from Mediterranean to subtropical to semi-desert.
This biodiversity, together with a coastline 3 000km long and served by seven commercial ports, favours the cultivation of a wide range of marine and agricultural products – from deciduous, citrus and subtropical fruit, to grain, wool, cut flowers, livestock and game.
Agricultural activities range from intensive crop production and mixed farming in winter rainfall and high summer rainfall areas, to cattle ranching in the bushveld and sheep farming in the arid regions. Maize is most widely grown, followed by wheat, oats, sugar cane and sunflowers.
While 13% of South Africa’s land can be used for crop production, only 22% of this is high-potential arable land. The greatest limitation is the availability of water. Rainfall is distributed unevenly across the country, with some areas prone to drought. Almost 50% of water is used for agriculture, with about 1.3-million hectares under irrigation.
South Africa is not only self-sufficient in virtually all major agricultural products, but is also a net food exporter. Farming remains vitally important to the economy and the development of the southern African region.
- Department of Trade and Industry
- Department of Agriculture
- Nampo Harvest Day
- SA Meat Industry Company
- Grain SA
- Agricultural Research Council
Sources: MediaClubSouthAfrica, SA Yearbook, SouthAfrica.info
Image: South Africa”s agricultural sector is diverse and well developed.
Photo: Graeme Williams, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com