2021 has been a challenging year for agriculture, says Dr Sifiso Ntombela, chief economist for the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC). He joins us on this week’s podcast to discuss these challenges and to give us insight into what next year might hold.
Ntombela says that 2021 had many challenges, the biggest among them being the Covid-19 pandemic. He explains that the pandemic constrained the demand side of agriculture, making it painful for both farmers and agri-processers.
Another issue putting pressure on the sector is the escalation of import prices. “[It] really put on a knock on the profitability of many farms, as [the] majority of them are still battling with their recovery from the drought and other externalities that they’ve faced over the past years.
“But looking on the positive side, the agility of the farmers to continue surviving even under harsh conditions as well as the good weather, has some of the positives [of 2021].”
Ntombela says that the good weather in particular has increased farmer confidence, as they now expect to be able to plant more grain. “We have also seen a lot of replacement of old wheat cultivars as well as varieties in the horticultural space.”
Going into 2022, Ntombela highlights how the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the country may affect the sector. He explains that it may hold the key to the country’s growth 2022. “One of the biggest challenges that will be facing the agriculture sector, is the level at which the vaccination programme will grow, because that will determine the relaxation of the regulations that will then unlock, not only the potential of the sector, but [also] the economy at large.”
Potentially low infrastructure investment and port inefficiencies can also affect the agricultural sector adversely next year, as well as logistics, adds Ntombela. However, he highlights the weather, policy review and other investment areas as potentially having positive effects on the sector.
“[We may also] continue to see some clarity around the land reform [policies] and also other investment areas [in] the agricultural sector. The establishment of the biosecurity task team [is] also bringing some confidence [to the sector] as it is seen as a sign of [the] government ensuring that [the] the biosecurity issue [is addressed] heads on,” he says.
“Those are the key elements that will determine at what level the agricultural sector [would] contribute [to] jobs, growth, as well as [to] the food security, which is the primary role of the agri-sector.”
Other farmer’s highlights:
This week’s Farmer’s Inside Track also has other highlights from the agricultural sector:
- Cotton Farming 101: We get some insight into growing cotton from Dr Annette Bennet, Cotton SA’s technology manager; Tertius Schoeman, manager of development and transformation at Cotton SA; and Petros Sithole, award-winning cotton farmer.
- Mobile technology: Dr Innocent Sirovha tells us more about AgriSETA’s new mobile app, called Connect ME, where job seekers can be matched with prospective employers.
- Book of the week: Our book of the week, as chosen by Free State farmer Buchule Jack, is That will never work by Marc Randolph.
- Farmer’s Tip of the Week: Our farmer’s tip this week comes from Dr Brendon Neumann, platform lead at Andermatt Madumbi.
How to listen to Farmer’s Inside Track
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