Agricultural sector – the lifeblood of South Africa

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Agriculture has always been an important industry in South Africa and together with mining and manufacturing forms the backbone of the South African economy.

The agricultural sector in South Africa is divided into commercial farming and subsistence-based farming, mainly in the rural areas of the country. Thanks to its seven climatic regions, farmers are able to produce a variety of marine and agricultural products, including livestock and game, grain, wool, fruit and wine.

Livestock is the largest agricultural sector in the country with the main focus on cattle and sheep. Dairy is produced throughout the country with more than 4 000 milk producers employing around 60 000 farm workers.

As a meat-loving nation, beef farming plays an important agricultural role with South Africa producing 85% of its meat requirements. However, production cannot keep up with local demand and as a result 15% of our meat has to be imported from Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and even further afield. South Africans have also developed a taste for white meat and consequently chicken is now one of the country’s largest agricultural imports. Sheep and goat farming, poultry and pig farming and game farming form part of livestock farming in South Africa.

The grain industry is one of the largest agricultural sectors representing between 25% and 33% of the country’s total gross agricultural production. Maize is most widely grown and is also the most important source of carbohydrates in Southern Africa. It is produced mainly in the central regions of South Africa in the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga highveld. Other grain crops include wheat – the second largest locally produced field crop, sunflower seeds, barley, sorghum and soya beans.

South Africa is the ninth largest wine producer in the world. More than 99 000 hectares of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation. There are six wine producing regions in the Western Cape, and another four geographical units in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. South African wine exports have more than doubled between 2003 and 2013 and some 275 600 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry.

The types of fruit produced in South Africa can be classified as deciduous, citrus and subtropical. Deciduous fruits, including apples, pears and peaches, are mainly produced in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Cold winters and dry summers create the perfect climatic conditions to grow these crops. Tropical fruits, such as pineapples, bananas, avocados and mangoes are grown mostly in the northeast and some coastal areas. South Africa also has a thriving citrus industry, with more than half of citrus production exported in most years.

Other crops grown by South African farmers include vegetables, sugar, cotton, tobacco and tea (honeybush and rooibos).

It is clear that the South African agricultural industry not only plays an important role in the South African economy, but also feeds its people and the people of Africa. Considering the fact that the South African population is expected to grow to 82 million by 2035, we cannot afford to neglect this

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