- Economic contribution
- Field crops and horticulture
- Other crops
- Organic agriculture
- Support to smallholder farmers
- Climate change
The agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors are crucial to South Africa's socio-economic development. The key priorities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are therefore aligned to alleviating poverty, creating employment and improving food security.
While the primary agricultural sector contributes about 3%
to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), it represents
about 7% of formal employment. If the entire value chain
of agriculture is taken into account, its contribution to GDP
reaches about 12%.
Agricultural activities range from intensive crop production and mixed farming to cattle-ranching and sheep-farming. About 12% of South Africa's surface area can be used for crop production. High-potential arable land comprises only 22% of total arable land. Some 1,3 million hectares (ha) are
As a natural resource, the fisheries sector is also recognised as a potential area for economic growth. The mandate for fisheries management includes fresh water and inland fisheries, as well as aquaculture.
Broadening the scope of aquaculture will provide the opportunity to increase the production of fish and other aquatic food species, thereby decreasing the pressure on natural fish resources.
Through the National Aquaculture Strategic Framework, the department strives to ensure effective stakeholder engagement and management, as well as to advance the transformation agenda in the sector.
The gross value of agricultural production for 2011 was estimated at R147 283 million, compared to R132 136 million the previous year – representing an increase of 11,5%. The gross income of producers by 31 December 2011 amounted to R144 603 million, compared with R129 741 million in 2010
– an increase of 11,5%.
Gross income from field crops increased by 29,8%, to R35 798 million in 2011. Nett farm income amounted to R39 930 million by 31 December 2011, which is 14,6% higher than in the previous 12 months.
The largest area of farmland planted with field crops is maize, followed by wheat and, to a lesser extent, sugar cane and sunflower seed. The grain industry is one of the largest in South Africa and is a very strategic one.
- South Africa is the main maize producer in the SADC region. Maize is produced mainly in North West, the Free State and Mpumalanga. Some 10,8 Mt of maize were commercially produced in 2011/12 on 2,7 million ha of land.
- Wheat is produced mainly in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape and the eastern parts of the Free State. In 2011, 2,0 Mt were produced on 604 700 ha of land.
- Malting barley is produced mainly on the southern coastal plains of the Western Cape. The area of barley planted totalled 80 150 ha in 2011, and production totalled 312 000 t.
- Sorghum is cultivated mostly in the drier parts of the summer rainfall areas such as Mpumalanga, the Free State, Limpopo and North West.
- The sugar industry combines sugar-cane cultivation and
industrial factory production of raw and refined sugar,
syrups and specialised sugars, as well as a range ofby-products. The cane-growing sector has about 29 130
registered sugar-cane growers farming predominantly
in KwaZulu-Natal, with a substantial investment in Mpumalanga and some farming operations in the Eastern Cape. Sugar is manufactured by six milling companies with 14 sugar mills operating in these cane-growing regions. The industry produces an estimated average of 2,2 Mt of sugar per season of which about 80% of sugar is marketed in the Southern African Customs Union. The remainder is exported to markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
- South Africa's indigenous flowers such as gladioli, nerines, freesias and gerberas have undergone many years of extensive research in Europe, and have become major crops worldwide. The total floriculture industry employs some 17 500 people.
Other crops grown in South Africa include among others:
- Deciduous fruit is grown mainly in the Western Cape and in the Langkloof Valley of the Eastern Cape. Smaller production areas are found along the Orange River and in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. In 2011, South Africa produced 1 644 825 t of deciduous fruit.
- Pineapples are grown mainly in the Eastern Cape and in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
- Other subtropical crops such as avocados, mangoes, bananas, litchis, guavas, papayas, granadillas and macadamia and pecan nuts are produced mainly in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and in the subtropical coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
- South Africa is the eighth largest wine producer in the world. The 2011 crop – including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine – amounted to 1 013,5 Ml.
Organic farming avoids the use of synthetic pesticides,
herbicides and chemical fertilisers by using a range oftechniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution.
There are an estimated 250 farms on 45 000 ha of certified
land in South Africa. Organic crops include various cereals,
vegetables, roots and tubers, herbs and spices, fruit, nuts and
As a follow-up to the commitments made in 2011 at the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (better known as COP17), the Department of Africulture, Forestry and Fisheries will promote climate-smart agriculture such as the adoption of sustainable production systems, namely organic farming, agro-ecology and conservation agriculture.
Regarding conservation agriculture, pilot projects have been implemented in several provinces. This was done in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Animal production contributes approximately 41% to the
country's agricultural GDP. About 500 000 people are
employed by the industry.
Milk production in South Africa contributes approximately 0,5% to the world's milk production. South Africa has four major dairy breeds, namely Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire.
Mpumalanga commands the greatest share of beef production in South Africa, accounting for 23% in 2009, followed with the Free State and Gauteng, taking up 20% and 13% respectively. Commercial farmers own 60% of the 14,1 million cattle available in South Africa.
There are 27 popular beef breeds in South Africa including the Brahman, indigenous Afrikaner and Nguni, Tuli, Boron, Bonsmara, Drakensberger, Simbra, Beefmaster, Angus and Braford.
Smallholder farming has become central to job creation and
economic growth in South Africa. Smallholder farmers are
therefore encouraged to produce and drive economies in
their respective communities. To this end, the Department
of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries increased its support
to new and existing smallholder farmers, working in close collaboration with the provinces to achieve its targets.
A Smallholder Development Working Group was established to strengthen collaboration between the parties that deal with the smallholder support mandate. The department encourages household food production through backyard gardens and programmes such as the Household Food Security and Ilima-Letsema Campaign, whose main objective is to motivate communities to plough, plant and produce their own food.
The Ilima-Letsema Programme focuses on increasing food production and rehabilitating irrigation schemes and other value-adding projects. In 2011/12, 14 029 jobs were created through the programme.
The agriculture sector in South Africa faces considerable
impact from climate change, which affects the livelihoods of
the majority of people, especially those that are vulnerable to
South Africa responds to international obligations regarding climate mainly through the Department of Environmental Affairs, but the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as other departments such as the departments of mineral resources, energy, science and technology, and water affairs are also involved.
The Climate Change Programme implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries include programmes on raising awareness, developing policy, sectormitigation and adaptation plans, conducting vulnerability assessments countrywide, and identifying and coordinating climate-related research projects.
South Africa is a full member of the Global Research Alliance, which among other objectives, aim to enhance collaborative research into agricultural emission reductions and increase support and resourcing for agricultural emission research.
The research report on the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Inventory and capacity-building for the sector was published in 2011. The results of the project will inform the development of the mitigation strategy, which is expected to assist in achieving food security. The Atlas of Climate Change and The South African Agricultural Sector: A 2010 Perspective, aimed at investigating the first- to fourth-order impacts of climate change on agriculture, were also completed and published.
- Agriculture and land links
- SA Yearbook 2012/13
- Documents on agriculture
- Speeches and statements on agriculture