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Updated 20 Sep 2020

What the next few years might look like for farmers in South Africa

Looking to grow your agribusiness in the coming years? Here are some expert insights to consider and strategise around.

09 March 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

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Mohammad Karaan from National Treasury’s Public Economics Winter School says South Africa’s agricultural sector’s employment levels 100 years ago was around 1.8 million to 2 million people. “It is currently down to 850 000 to 900 000 people.”

According to Karaan, the industry is under strain and greater collaboration between government and private sector is needed to boost economic growth. 

But, while Karaan believes some challenges in the sector are going be tough to overcome, South Africa’s Agri Research Council (ARC) remains optimistic about the future of farming in the country. ARC CEO, DrShadrack Moephuli shares some interesting insights on the future of farming in SA:

Recruiting and retaining employees

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Recruiting and retaining highly qualified and skilled food scientists in the sector, while generating sustainable income for effective management of operations are some of the industry’s most pressing concerns. 

Tougher to be independent in the business

Also, a decline in the number of commercial farmers in South Africa is spurred on by the few remaining agribusinesses consolidating their farming operations into large, highly-sophisticated commercial enterprises.

Related: The 7 habits of highly effective farmers

“These new and improved businesses can access the scientific skills they need from a global base, moving them further away from working with the ARC,” says Moephuli.

Wide effect of climate change on the agri sector

Moephuli says that among ARC’s top five priority areas of focus is climate change and ensuring South African agriculture is resilient to its effects.

“In the context of climate change we have issues of floods, drought and changes in temperature which affects agriculture,” says Moephuli. “This means among other things we have to ensure that we have the right type of vaccines for livestock producers and drought tolerant seed cultivars for crop growers which are able to respond to changes in temperature.”

ARC has released the following as part of its efforts against climate change:

  • Drought tolerant maize cultivars
  • Low chill apple cultivars
  • Vaccines against potential disease.

Hone the ‘farmers of the future’

The process of cultivating the ‘future farmer’ is taking flight through South African public service institutions, albeit slowly and to a currently low candidate pool. “We are running the risk of finding ourselves in a situation where we don’t have highly skilled food specialists and farmers in the near future,” says Moephuli. “To avoid this, we must come up with a massive accelerated programme that delivers end-to-end agri services.”

Related: 3 Steps to a winning strategy for your agribusiness

How? Moephuli suggests the following solutions to boost collaboration between agri, private and public stakeholders:

  • More discussions around understanding and resolving challenges facing smallholder farmers
  • Stronger co-ordination of the multiple actors in the current farming system
  • Recruit more, younger agriculturally-inclined people
  • Ensure agri strategies are clear and enduring.

If the ARC’s insights are followed, local agribusinesses could be producing farmers of the future. And, as climate change and rising pressure to farm with less resources mounts, you can expect the sector to get more competitive. The competition could be viewed as an opportunity to collaborate with another business in the private sector or a public-sector.


For more information on farming or for financial solutions that are tailored to the needs of your agribusiness, contact Standard Bank today.



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