A conversation about agriculture’s prospects in driving South Africa’s rural economy.
Tractor sales, rainfall forecasts point to bumper summer crops for South Africa in the 2021/22 season
The weather conditions in the build-up to the 2021/2022 summer season continue to paint a constructive picture for agriculture. Last month, the SA Weather Service hinted at another La Niña season, albeit somewhat weaker than in the 2020/2021 summer season. Such a favourable weather forecast means there is likely to be above average rainfall over most regions of SA. Global weather forecasters such as the International Research Institute for Climate and Society echo the SA Weather Service’s prediction. Importantly, from September 2021 to January 2022 the probability of La Niña is more than 50%.
South African farmers also responded positively to the good rains through increasing area plantings. For example, the recently released data show that wheat, canola, and oats plantings are up by 2% (to 521 500 hectares), 35% (to 100 000 hectares) and 34% (to 35 150 hectares) y/y, respectively. For wheat, the area planted is roughly in line with the 11-year average, while for canola and oats, current planting is the largest on record.
Expanding irrigation infrastructure, commercialising underutilised communal and reformed land (through the provision of tradable land rights), and targeted support to agricultural subsectors and regions with growth potential could all have transformed the rural economy of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. While this may seem obvious, unfortunately, those in leadership have failed to pursue this route.
It is possible that South Africa’s kiwifruit industry could experience impressive expansion — as was the case with blueberries, which were stagnant for a long time, and expanded greatly as global demand spurred South African farmers to increase their production.
Over the past decade, imports accounted for an average of 53% of South Africa’s annual wheat consumption of 3,2 million tonnes. As a result of this dependency on the global market, we pay close attention to primary producers, who serve as South African suppliers.