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Agri Careers: Meet an agricultural economist

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Apart from examining data to determine patterns and trends in economic activity, agricultural economists like 29-year-old Lucius Phaleng also influence and improve the business decisions of clients and agricultural organizations.

As an agricultural economist at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), Phaleng advises the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on market access opportunities in the international markets – aking his career a tad more exciting than just collecting data and conducting research.

1Sum up your job:
I conduct trade research and rigorous analysis to advise the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on market access opportunities in the international markets.

2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail?
I conduct research and more research, and analyse data to create meaning out of it. The research that I produce is converted into articles for NAMC publications and other media platforms.

3

What qualification do you need for this career?
For one to become an agricultural economist one needs to obtain a qualification in agricultural economics. There are different focus areas, mine is trade research.

4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job?
Team work and time management is key. Have an interest in all the continents and their cultures, in terms of what they produce and consume.

5Have you always worked in the agriculture sector?
Before joining NAMC I worked on a project as a forensic investigator at KPMG, a global network of professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services. Thereafter I started at NAMC when I was 26 years old and I’m still working for the organisation.

6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in?
I have always loved agriculture. I grew up with my grandparents who were subsistence farmers. My love for agriculture came from there and it is good to see some of my work having an impact on the development of the sector and assisting disadvantaged farmers accessing the local and international markets.

7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?
I started my career as a graduate in agricultural economics and during that time I was nominated as one of the top graduates by the Agricultural Sector Education Training Authority (SETA), also known as AgriSeta. In 2018 I also received an award for the best employee in the Market and Economic Research Centre (MERC) at NAMC.

8What do you do when you’re not at work?
I spend most of my time playing soccer and getting some exercise. I also spend some evening time reading some of the trending news in other countries especially on politics because I believe that politics plays a role in international trade, for example, China and US trade wars.

9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story
Know who you want to become and keep chasing that. But the truth is it is not going to be easy, because if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Learn to take orders from mentors and seniors – that’s how we build our careers.

Duncan Masiwa
Duncan Masiwa
DUNCAN MASIWA is a budding journalist with a passion for telling great agricultural stories. He hails from Macassar, close to Somerset West in the Western Cape, where he first started writing for the Helderberg Gazette community newspaper. Besides making a name for himself as a columnist, he is also an avid poet who has shared stages with artists like Mahalia Buchanan, Charisma Hanekam, Jesse Jordan and Motlatsi Mofatse.
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