These past few days I shared contrasting views on the agricultural conditions between the western and eastern parts of South Africa due to variations in weather conditions. If there is one photo that clearly demonstrates the picture I was trying to paint, it’s this one – see Figure 1 in this article.
South African farmers planted 28 800 hectares of sorghum in the 2017/18 production season – the smallest area on record in a dataset starting from 1936/37. This is a disappointing picture, given that sorghum, aside from human consumption purposes, was once seen as key to the development of the biofuel industry in South Africa and, in turn, job creation in rural areas.
I received communication from a couple of farmers this morning, informing me that it is less than 20 percent of intended maize hectares planted thus far in the Free State and North West, respectively, due to persistent dryness. This is a concern as these particular provinces are the main white maize producers, typically accounting for more than half of white maize output in any season.
Yesterday’s drive from Gauteng to Eastern Cape gave me a sense of how drier weather conditions have affected South Africa’s summer crop production in regions of the country.
Having a largest cattle herd does not always translate to being a biggest beef or milk producer. South Africa is ranked sixth in the continent by cattle herd count, but it is the largest beef producer, and third largest milk producer in Africa.
South Africans are generally eating more meat these days. In 2000 beef, poultry and pork per capita consumption were at 15,6kg, 21,5kg and 3,0kg respectively. In 2017 this increased to 17,2kg for beef, 41,0kg for chicken and 5,0kg for pork. While consumption of all meats has risen, chicken has taken the lead due to price competitiveness.