The agricultural sector has proven itself as a steady source of employment in Limpopo during a time in which 139 000 people lost their jobs, according to Statistics South Africa’s latest quarterly labour force survey.
Limpopo recorded a 10% decline in employment – the highest of all provinces. The sector now calls for further investment into agriculture to create much-needed jobs. For this, government buy-in is essential, says Agri Limpopo chief executive Deidré Carter.
She says the contribution of Limpopo’s agricultural sector has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. “[This is…] especially with respect to the well-being of the people and its contribution to the economy, job opportunities and export earnings.”
With agriculture being classified as an essential service during the pandemic, the sector was able to continue growing and producing food. Also, citrus exports, especially, gave Limpopo a big boost in the last year, says Carter.
Rapid municipal decline
Carter explains that agriculture and mining are the two biggest economic drivers in the rural areas of Limpopo. Agriculture, she says, is more resilient to shocks and downturns in the global economy. That being said, tobacco, salad and cash-crop producers were hit by the pandemic.
According to Carter a number of issues endangering current and future agricultural and agro-processing must be addressed by government. This includes Eskom’s power outages, failing infrastructure (water, electricity and roads), as well as delays in the expansion and development of new infrastructure.
Carter is also worried about collapsing municipalities and ongoing service delivery issues at a number of Limpopo municipalities. Also, inefficient harbour operations, major routes being blocked during community protests and attacks on the trucking industry is a great cause of concern.
Meanwhile, Risham Maharaj, provincial spokesperson for the DA, says they are pleased to see that the “agricultural sector remains a steady source of job creation which continues to create economic opportunities for mainly the rural parts of our province.”
As a party, they are, however, calling on Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha to urgently focus on infrastructure projects that will not only create jobs but also attract investments. Small enterprises focusing on women and the youth should also be supported.
Maharaj says “with determined political will, Limpopo’s natural resources and scenic beauty can be unleashed to create jobs and prosperity.”