While agricultural leaders were left disappointed by Tito Mboweni’s budget speech, the well-known political commentator Jan-Jan Joubert has a different perspective. He believes that agriculture is, in fact, the finance minister’s favourite economic sector.
Agriculture came in for some high praise amidst the doom and gloom of National Treasury’s grim budget documentation.
Apart from the generally negative national economic prognosis, the only really bad news for agriculture was the steep increase in fuel levies and the, by now, customary hefty hike in sin taxes. It impacts most severely on the tobacco, wine and related industries.
But it must have given finance minister and intrepid farmer Tito Mboweni great joy to note the successes of his favourite economic sector. This, especially when measured against the dour outlook projected for so many other sectors in the struggling South African economic landscape.
Growth in agriculture
In its assessment of the budgetary landscape, National Treasury notes that the agriculture sector recorded strong growth in 2020.
The sector added an annual gross value of 13,3% in the first three quarters of 2020, relative to the same period in 2019.
Agricultural growth in each quarter was underpinned by production recoveries in horticulture, grain and livestock.
According to National Treasury, the outlook for 2021 is positive, although growth is not expected to match that of 2020.
Favourable weather conditions and strong international demand for agricultural exports will continue to support production growth.
Trade disruptions, for example through resumptions of global lockdowns, could, in National Treasury’s estimation, threaten agriculture’s strong export performance.
Over the medium term, policy uncertainty and non-tariff barriers such as quotas and quality standards pose challenges to the agricultural sector, National Treasury concludes.