I planned to spend some time this evening updating a piece I wrote for Business Day early last year about the Eastern Cape’s agricultural activities. Amongst other things discussed in it, I highlighted the province’s contribution to South Africa’s wool and milk production, and new developments in the grain and oilseed production.

As I prepared to update the piece, I realised that I have not said a word in this blog about the structure of the South African milk industry.

So, here we go — the number of milk producers in South Africa decreased by 55 percent between January 2009 and January 2017 to 1 593 farmers, according to data from the Milk Producers Organisation. This decline was largely in the inland provinces such as the Free State, North West, Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. This was partially underpinned by lower milk prices and higher feeding costs – profitability is a major issue. This is a global challenge by the way.

For consumers, however, this is not much of an issue in the near term as milk production has increased significantly in the country. Between 2009 and 2016, South Africa’s milk production increased by 22 percent to 3.2 million tonnes.

Moreover, South Africans are increasingly consuming more milk. The per capita consumption increased by 4 percent over the corresponding period to 39 kg per year, according to data from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Also worth noting is that the prices of milk have slowed from levels seen in the past couple of months. On average in May 2018, a price of a litre of milk was down by a percentage point from the same time last year.

Ok, now that we have the milk story out of the way – I will come back to this Eastern Cape agricultural production stuff sometime during the week.

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

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