To say that 2021 was a rollercoaster year, and at times chaotic, would be a bit of an understatement. Agriculture was a pillar of stability in the economy of Mzansi from 2020 into 2021 but it was also hit by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, skyrocketing input costs, power cuts, fuel price hikes, unrest and crime. And that’s not even mentioning the natural elements that farmers are exposed to.
Team Food For Mzansi spoke to 30 movers and shakers in agriculture to review their 2021 and to share their hopes for the future. Their takeaway? The true meaning of resilience and excitement for the year ahead.
Mooketsa Ramasodi, director-general at the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development
During the year 2021, the South African agricultural sector exhibited a somewhat strong economic performance, notwithstanding the level 3 lockdown as Covid-19 control measure. The sector recorded an annualised real GDP growth of 13.1% in 2020 and the expectation during the succeeding year was the consolidation of the buoyant economic performance.
The agricultural sector performed relatively well in the first quarter of 2021, expanding by 7.5% in real terms as compared to the first quarter of 2020. Similarly, the performance was exceptional in the second quarter, expanding by 15% and juxtaposing the second quarter of 2020. However, performance during the third quarter shows a decline of 7.2% in real terms compared to the third quarter of last year. An annualised growth is predicted for the sector in 2021.
Agricultural production and trade numbers are significant. The sector produced a commercial maize crop of 16 million tonnes, which is 7% more than the 15.3 million tonnes of the previous 2020 season. This is the second largest maize crop ever produced in South Africa.
Projections for the 2021 planting season remained good as the sector experienced a 27% year-on-year increase in tractor sales during the first half of 2021. In terms of citrus, South Africa exported a record of 161.6 million cartons of fruit as compared to 146 million cartons exported in 2020.
A much-needed look at food systems
Besides the positive agricultural production and trade numbers, the agriculture value actors successfully hosted the nine provincial dialogues on food systems. The comments and inputs harvested during the dialogues culminated in the crafting of the South African Position Paper on Food Systems. The paper was presented and shared with the United Nations at the food systems global dialogue in September 2021.
A dynamic sector such as agriculture is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and outbreaks of pests and diseases. Certain areas within the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape experienced extended droughts that adversely affected production.
Similarly, certain parts of the Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape experienced the outbreak of brown locusts while an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was detected in northern KwaZulu-Natal. These incidences adversely impacted the economic performance of the sector and can be classified as the lowlights for the year.
Mase Manopole, Northern Cape MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform
We started the new year on a great footing after we received good rains, especially in areas that were hard hit by drought. Our province has been under a drought spell for more than ten years.
If we didn’t have the hard-working controlling teams led by national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, we would have seen the locusts ruining everything we managed to gather from the good rainfall we have experienced to date.
We still have some spots in the province in which the locusts were spotted, but our teams working together with farmers are on the ground, controlling the swarms.
Regardless of the above-mentioned challenges we are facing, our farmers have always been able to brace the storm and come out victorious. We really thank them for their perseverance and collaboration.
In 2022, we are hoping for another year of solid growth in the Northern Cape agricultural sector.
Parks Tau, Gauteng MEC for economic development, environment, agriculture and rural development
Since the beginning of 2020 our country has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed down economic activity and threatened livelihoods.
We will get all hands on deck in the year 2022 as we implement plans, policies and projects we have put in place during the course of 2021. These include our exciting flagship projects that are being rolled out by our economic acceleration war room.
Desbo Mohono, North West MEC for agriculture and rural development
The year 2021 has not been an easy year, due to many ills surrounding all of us, the primary suspect being the monstrous Covid-19 pandemic that continues to wreak havoc in our society.
To our farmers in the province: let us continue working together to change the sector, pray for more rain in the coming year and take care of ourselves.
Neo Masithela, chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa
2021 has been both a very difficult and a good year for the agricultural sector. The better part of the country is in its summer planting season and because of the rain that we are experiencing now, we are closing this year on a very difficult note. First we were confronted with droughts and now we are confronted with floods. That’s the difficulty of the industry.
What I am looking forward to in 2022, is that the entire industry comes together and ensures that they put their personal and organisational interests aside and put the interest of the sector ahead of their own interests.
The sector has not been inclusive and we hope that, through the master plan and combining our minds and heads, that agri practitioners, leaders, farmers and business entities in this space would understand the needs of the sector.
The environment is conducive for all of us to work together and ensure that the sector benefits, along with all of those who work in it.
Patricia Pillay, CEO of the Beer Association of South Africa
What a tumultuous year 2021 has been. With the continuous lockdowns and alcohol bans the sector has been hard hit with 30% of craft breweries shutting down. Investments from the big beer manufacturers have also been diverted, which is a huge blow for South Africa who needs the economic stimulation desperately.
With South Africa seeing its highest unemployment rate of close to 40%, we cannot continue on this current trajectory. The alcohol industry has had to mobilise itself and relook at its business strategy as well as how it engages with government.
A non-adversarial and more collaborative approach, always being the first option, proved futile with government failing to consult with the industry. This left many in the alcohol value chain, including BASA, with no option but to look to the courts for relief. Without transparency and consultation and evidence-based decisions we will see the collapse of the craft industry in South Africa; an industry that promotes transformation and empowers small businesses and is a foundation for job creation in the country.
We are hoping that sanity will prevail in 2022; that we give true meaning to public-private partnerships, with government becoming more accountable and a true partner to businesses. We need to realise from the recent Omicron debacle, which saw SA shunned as a country, that we only have each other.
We need to stand together to grow this economy and country. Working together, we can go far in addressing the challenges we face as a nation.
Annalea van Niekerk, stud breeder from Reitz in the Free State
This year was a mixture of sweet and sour. I reached amazing goals that I set out for my farming business. Being recognised as one of the top Free State finalists vying for the Young Farmer of the Year competition was another major highlight because I was the only woman in the group. That was major for me and I learned a lot.
It’s always great to see how my farming enterprise grows every year.
This year farm crimes really got to me and also, If I look at the weather conditions that we have been experiencing, then farmers in the country have been going through so much. But at the same time it’s wonderful to see how farmers are progressing. And so many new young farmers have entered the sector.
I am really excited about 2022 and about what will happen. I think farming in South Africa is becoming more and more positive. For a very long time it was very negative, but things are changing. I have something in the pipeline and I am excited to see that it’s going to work out.
Uzair Essack, managing director of Riyp, a Western Cape-based fresh produce exporter
2021 highlights for me were definitely entering new markets such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso; also doing new lines such as kiwi fruit.
Some challenges were the shipping and exchange rates, as well as air freight – basically all the Covid-19-related issues.
Regarding my outlook for 2022, we are very excited as we are working on some big things and hopefully they will come to fruition. We are also looking forward to increasing our volumes, exporting to more countries and doing more [product] lines.
Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, beer brewmaster and founder of Brewsters Craft
The biggest challenge this year has been the ongoing alcohol bans and their impact on the craft brewing industry. On a personal note, I’ve had to close down my brewery this year, together with a few other brewery owners.
It has been quite exciting to see the level of resilience there is in the sector. With all that negativity going on, many have managed to soldier on.
The year 2022 looks very promising. I think things are going to start going back to pre-Covid-19 times. In the last few months, we have started seeing more people showing more interest in the alcohol industry, which will mean more people entering the industry in the new year.
Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association
For the citrus industry, 2021 was a real mixed bag. On the positive side we had a year where record volumes were exported out of South Africa and the quality was excellent.
But unfortunately the returns back to growers were dismal for most of the sector. The reasons for that were two-fold.
One: in the markets the prices were a lot lower than in previous years. This was mostly due to fruit being oversupplied to some markets while others were undersupplied. This was mostly because there was a lot of disruption in the logistics sector with the ports taking strain, largely due to factors outside of their control.
The insurrection halted fruit from inland to the ports for a period of about four weeks. This was followed by a cyber attack on Transnet, which crippled that organisation, making it impossible to load vessels. From that point of view the markets were not supplied at the right time and we also found that the shipping costs increased considerably.
We look forward to 2022. We hope that these “black swan” events will not be repeated, that our logistics chains will return to normal and that we can actually ship the fruit where we want to ship it rather than where there are shipping opportunities. Also, that we ship the fruit in reasonable time so that it arrives in a good-quality condition.
We anticipate that the increase in production will continue. We are having good rains in most of the producing regions, which means that we will have a good blossom and probably fruit again. Given the plantings that have occurred in the last five years, there’s every reason to believe that the volumes in 2022 will be higher than the volumes in 2021.
Kamohelo Bombe, poultry farmer and Living Land TV show presenter
I must say, 2021 was such a great year for me. I was presenting an agricultural show on SABC called Living Land, which really exposed me to what other young people are doing in the agricultural space. I learned so much and it’s so refreshing to see young black farmers innovating within the sector.
When you listen to the minister and the president, they are always preaching that young people need to get into the secondary phase of farming, which is agro-processing. I see a lot of young people doing that, which is amazing.
This year I have been doing a lot of research, especially into agro-processing when it comes to chickens. And I also started a shop, selling atchar and eggs in Soweto. I get my eggs from farmers who are struggling with access to markets, so I decided to open a shop just to show farmers that there are so many ways to move your product.
The problem many farmers face is access to the market and because of that, I strongly believe that as young farmers we need to be innovative within the industry. I also believe government should be going to the retail chains and discuss measures to lighten the red-tape burden on farmers.
I was out of production for a while. I only recently got a farm (21 hectares) in Pretoria and I am very happy to start this project next year. So, come 2022, I’m going back to production. I want to start with layers and I want to build a training academy. Since 2016, I have also been running poultry workshops with young people who want to get into the poultry industry.
All the best to all the farmers who are really pushing hard despite all the challenges that they face. Agricultural enterprises, like any other business, is lonely and comes with so many disappointments. But I strongly believe that if you are doing something because you are passionate about it, you will see those challenges as a learning curve. But if you are into it for money, then you will definitely be demotivated to continue.
Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA
2021 was indeed a rollercoaster year. The spillover effect of 2020, when Covid-19 struck, was clearly felt during the past year and then the uprising in KwaZulu-Natal exacerbated the whole issue. But the sector remains very resilient. We had very good rains this past year and we foresee very good rains in the new year. In some instances the rains have caused damage but I don’t think it will really have too much of a devastating impact on the sector.
2022 looks even more promising, if only we can deal with all our challenges – making sure that our roads and harbours are fixed, making sure that we have greater levels of safety and security in the country, and that we contain our input costs – then I think we are set for a very good year in 2022.
I would like to share my best wishes to all farmers and agricultural workers in the country. I think what we need is one big collective effort to make the sector work for everyone, to ensure that the sector produce food of the best quality, and that we do not compromise food security in any way.
Ipeleng Kwadi, North West farmer and owner of Motsobella Farming Enterprise
My 2021 was full of positive networking among farmers in South Africa and neighbouring countries on market access opportunities. I have also recognised agro-processing as critical drivers of GDP growth and employment.
I have seen more farmers leaving the industry due to the high rising prices of animal feeds, fertilisers and petrol.
In 2022 we plan to save money on inputs if we purchase them earlier, for instance for bulk discounts on animal feeds.
A collaborative operation can also potentially benefit farmers.
Do early farm scenario plans. Consider some of the various ways in which the market could shift and how they can affect your business.
Doug Osler, commercial farmer from Fouriesburg in the Free State
2021 was a challenging year on the production side, with a lot of rain in December 2020 and January 2021 having a very negative impact on wheat and sugar beans.
The local market was also under pressure with sluggish sales and low prices on the fresh produce side and huge challenges were experienced on the export side with shipping cost increases and container availability.
The outlook so far for 2022 is promising from a production point of view, although we are having plenty of rain now that is starting to affect certain crops negatively, very much reminiscent of last year December.
The massive price increases on fertiliser and fuel have been difficult to absorb and will obviously impact returns.
Andile Ngcobo, KwaZulu-Natal farmer and agri consultant
In general, life in the epidemic has begun to feel more like we are in the post-Covid-19 period, even though we know it is not finished. This is because we’ve learned to live and work inside the Covid-19 rules and standards. It is no longer difficult to convince individuals to comply; our workforce is now completely vaccinated, masks are no longer required, and hygienic practices have become the standard.
The rains will be another feature of 2021. Our dam is overflowing, and the rains have been a boon to our farm. We have had the most rain in four years. It has been extremely beneficial to farmers in KwaZulu-Natal in general.
On the flipside, fuel price increases, fertilizer price increases, and the volatile price of power have all had a detrimental impact on our output. We anticipate that these variables will have an impact on food costs, since the cost of manufacturing would be significantly higher. Although we have not yet felt the squeeze, we are hopeful that the volatile prices of gasoline, fertilizer, and electricity would remain constant so that we may be confident in our market. It’s a perplexing time of year.
Throughout 2021, I have noticed a feeling of progress in myself in the field. This is evident in all of the initiatives that we began and have been executing in 2021. This will be extremely beneficial to us in the following year. It is critical to me that I maintain my consistency in 2022 and therefore consistency will be our vision in the new year.
A.J. Mthembu, acting president of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa
We entered the year limping as a result of the impact that we suffered during the lockdown. As much as agriculture was not completely shut down, black farmers in particular were technically not able to operate on the basis that our system for marketing is through the informal market, which many weren’t able to deliver to.
For commercially operating farmers it was a better year compared to other farmers who struggled with markets.
Other challenges included resources that were no longer available due it being used elsewhere in the fight against the virus. Things quickly went haywire when we were hit with foot-and-mouth disease, and later the July looting unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
The fact that land expropriation [without compensation] did not go through [in Parliament] does not take away from the fact that we need the land to produce from it. We remain hopeful that other instruments will be utilised, because the need for access to land remains and nothing will change that.
A positive was that the minister of finance appointed the new board at the Land Bank. We are expecting a new mind and a new approach for the bank to deliver on its mandate. Despite the communication and marketing challenges brought on by the pandemic, it is also good to see how young farmers utilised the system to their advantage. It’s clear that in order for us to succeed, technology has to be the order of the day.
Looking at 2022, we are hopeful but realistic at the same time. I am sure that 2021 will have an impact on the beginning of 2022. In accounting they speak of an opening balance and unfortunately we are starting with a bad opening balance.
Eric Mauwane, managing director of Oneo Farms near Tarlton, Gauteng
I must say that this has been the second most difficult year for me.
2021 was a most challenging year, especially for horticulture and livestock farmers. In January and February we were dealing with pests and diseases like never before, and on 22 July frost hit farmers across six provinces, up to Musina, and we lost our crops. Livestock theft was another dilemma in 2021.
Overall, a most challenging year.
The focus for 2022 will always be to be amongst the best pepper and chilli producers in Africa, focusing on great quality, and to grow the Oneo Farms brand.
Sinelizwi Fakade, commercial grain in Eastern Cape
The highlights for me this was the opportunities i got to grow the business and solidify the foundation of rocky pop farming group. Its been great to be the voice for developing farmers; 2021 was a year where more recognition was given to the developing sector and it was encouraging to be part of conversation that looks to open up opportunities for developing farmers in the sector. Other highlights was seeing how resilient our sector is.
The pandemic was a major challenge in terms of logistics and marketing of the grain. However, for 2022 i am looking forward to more opportunities, solidifying my position and getting a better voice for Eastern Cape agriculture.
2022 is a year of opportunity for me. I see it as a year where agriculture is going to grow, production estimates are showing high volumes that could be coming through. This will be a year of fine tuning and building rocky pop farming group. I ant to grow vertically and master the game of grain production as well as well as the value chain thereof. Diversifying the business and adding integrated enterprise into mu current setup. Those are the two major objectives for 2022.
David Fincham, founder of David Fincham Aquaculture
The upside of 2021 was that we learned that we were resilient and adaptive considering the Covid-19 pandemic and economic challenges that we were going through. Also, that we were ready to take on the challenges presented to us.
The real highlight of 2021 for aquaculture in Southern Africa was the launch of the Aqua-Spark fund for aquaculture. This fund is already established and there is currently 30 million dollar available for aquaculture projects in Southern Africa.
The fund will bring on board many investors who have looked at aquaculture and have been sitting on the fence because the industry was still fairly new and the innovation technology unproven. But over the last ten years, the technology was proven and tested, and so to build large-scale farms is a lot simpler. A lot of the learning processes have been taken care of.
Our focus was on small-scale farmers producing between one and 100 tonnes of fish a year. We believe that by scaling up those modules, we can grow the tilapia production within Southern Africa on a massive scale and also develop the skills, the market and the supply of fish to local communities.
COP26 highlighted the importance of aquaculture to the world food protein supply and also the need to manage and operate fisheries (both marine and freshwater) on a much more sustainable basis, preserving stocks and the biodiversity of the fish species that we are consuming. COP26 will also bring on board many investors looking at agriculture, green agriculture and renewable energy.
African aquaculture is now standing in the spotlight, centre stage, and now is our time to shine. I would like to wish everyone who supports our sector a blessed Christmas. And to our all our farmers: best wishes for 2022.
Njabulo Mbokane, FarmSol’s youth ambassador and owner of Aw Dalia, KwaZulu-Natal
Describing my 2021… can I start with the challenges? (lol) I experienced a lot of theft this year, with my sheep and vegetables being stolen. Then I lost my leasing agreement, which hit me very hard because there was a market that I needed to supply. People knew that every December they could get sheep from me, but now I don’t have a place to keep my sheep.
Against all odds I was able to retain the big farm that I was leasing. I went back to with what I initially started: soya beans. I did a crop rotation this year, because normally I plant yellow maize to supply the brewery. What is great for me, is that I did not have to get a contractor because I’ve got my own machinery now, so I did everything by myself.
As farmers we never give up and we are always optimistic. I am very sure that I will continue expanding in the new year. I’ve been applying for land and I am praying that I am successful. If I don’t get land from [government] then I’ll put a small deposit on a farm.
I experienced a lot this year. I had an accident, I’ve been through Covid-19 twice and I’ve lost loved ones, so it’s been a very tough year. But I am very optimistic for 2022 and I know that things are going to be super amazing.
Dr Lennox Xolile Mtshagi, president of the Black Farmers’ Association of South Africa
As BFASA we would really like to highlight challenges that were experienced by our largely small-scale farmers.
Firstly it was the climate, the droughts that negatively impacted most farmers – big and small – specifically in province like the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West and Limpopo.
And secondly, the food price inflation which was influenced by Covid-19. This affected the pockets of most households and ended up affecting, once again, the big and small farmers’ profits
Growth is ongoing in agriculture generally. It’s now sitting at 13.4% in 2021 and it’s definitely going higher in 2022.
As farmers, we capitalise on the favourable weather in some parts of our country, strong export activities, free intertrade in Africa and high commodity prices. These remain the catalysts for growth.
Dr Johnny van der Merwe, agricultural economist at North-West University
Major challenges were definitely weather-related. There was a lot of wet and cold weather, which made production in South Africa very challenging. The unpredictability of the markets was a major challenge for most producers and role players within the sector, which made planning very difficult.
A highlight, I think, was the fact that we still had very good demand. A highlight for me was seeing people go back to basics and recognising the agri sector that played such a major role in the whole economy.
My outlook for 2022 is not majorly positive. I think planning is essential for all producers going into the next two seasons, considering weather and markets. Producers need to do very good planning because there are commodity prices that can come under pressure if Covid-19 subsides a bit. The effect on profitability will become more severe in the next two seasons and that’s why better planning is important.
But with that said, we are still in for a good production season and there’s still profit to be made.
Kobedi Pilane, African Poultry Producers secretary-general
We believe that we can only start seeing the emancipation of black poultry producers when strategic goals are attended to, to gather and share poultry sector market intelligence and expertise.
We also need to prioritise policy and regulatory advocacy support in the coming year, facilitate market access, improve access to finance, and drive skills development and capacity building, networking and collaboration.
We hope that we will also achieve empowerment and transformation goals, production improvement and expansion, communication and technical information dissemination. We hope we can have the support of the government in our attempt to get to this.
Eugene Simons, founder of Algina Wholesale Nursery
My 2021 kicked off with being burgled six times in six weeks. But with everything that happened at the beginning of the year, Algina Wholesale Nursery has grown tremendously. We landed a contract with Stodels, supplying all five Western Cape stores. I am also excited that our five-year plan has turned into a ten-year plan. So with all the challenges, we have gained a new perspective in 2021.
What we are looking forward to in 2022 is expansion. Hopefully, in the upcoming year, we will be able to utilise the available tunnel structures and to triple the size of the nursery. We want to create jobs and employ at least five to ten more people in the new year.
With Covid-19 hanging over our heads, so many businesses have had to close down. For us as a small business, to have survived this long is amazing. Our slogan, “Faith like a mustard seed”, has really opened a new door for us and we are grateful to God.
I think 2022 is going to start with a big bang for us – a positive one though. Our wish for all farmers is to grow and expand their businesses to the full. If you have faith like a mustard seed, anything is possible.
Noko Masipa, DA member on the portfolio committee for agriculture, land reform and rural development
2021 was a mixed bag. The lowlight for me remains the poor and uncoordinated support to black emerging farmers. Another lowlight has been the increasing prices of fertiliser. This has been a challenge for most farmers.
Some of my highlights include the fact that we had a solid agriculture performance in quarter one and two. The continued success of public-private partnership projects such as PALS was also a plus. Many such projects went into their second harvest whilst others came into production this year.
I am also excited about the assurance that, despite the many challenges farmers are facing in this country, South Africa remains a food-secure country and farmers continue to supply food even during the hardest lockdown.
Other highlights include the wine industry going back to normal trading hours and adjusted lockdown rules, as well as the appointment of DG Ramasodi, which was a positive message to the sector. We are hoping that he will speed integration of the two entities (the department and the sector).
Key for us in 2022 will be that the new DG determines the reasons for ever-failing land reform projects and hold officials responsible for the failure of land reform projects accountable for their actions. This is to ensure that land reform projects are a success and to bring some stability and confidence to the land reform portfolio.
Increased support towards public-private partnership land reform projects must also be looked at to ensure sustainable, commercially viable agriculture transformation.
We also want the DG to act on biosecurity issues, especially in our most rural farming communities and the foot-and-mouth disease area.
Taetso Tsebogo, poultry and vegetable farmer in Ga-Boelang, Mpumalanga
2021 was a very challenging year, especially because we are still facing a pandemic. For a small-scale business like ours (Kimro Farming) that only focuses on farming spinach, it was really bad with the lockdown.
For example, we normally work with hotels that need our spinach for their kitchens. The restrictions affected hotels and it led to hotels not buying spinach and our produce going to waste.
Another thing is that customers don’t have money because some got retrenched. Things became more expensive – the likes of petrol that affects all prices – and as farmers we use transportation to get our produce from one place to another. That in itself affected our operating costs.
Water is forever a major problem, especially for a small-scale farmer who started with zero resources (only with an idea to farm). So, extracting enough water from the river was bad and it really affected our production, especially in a province like Mpumalanga where it can be extremely hot and rivers begin to short-supply.
Jaco Oosthuizen, RSA Group chief executive
2021 was very challenging. Covid-19 lockdowns placed ongoing pressure on logistics and operations, and negatively impacted consumer spending power across the country, with the July riots putting even more strain on a struggling economy. While fresh produce demand has held generally steady, buying patterns have shifted towards value-for-money lines. In addition, the lack of maintenance of municipal fresh produce markets facilities (as well as the country’s ports) became even more evident during the year.
The highlight was the industry’s ability to keep delivering fresh produce to South Africans (and the rest of the world), regardless of the challenges. The position of the fresh produce industry at the heart of the national food security network was clearly illustrated during the July riots, when the Durban fresh produce market played a key role in keeping the people of KZN fed during significant food shortages. It has also been positive to see how private sector players are filling the gaps left by government to establish new fresh produce markets in previously under-serviced areas, and to ensure business keeps ticking over at poorly maintained municipal facilities.
Demand for fresh produce is strong globally and locally, spurred on by a clear long-term consumer shift towards green diets. Even within the context of Covid-19-fuelled economic uncertainty, this demand is likely to remain in place.
Even in the face of significant headwinds, the fundamentals for the South African fresh produce industry remain good, and feature many business development opportunities in local and export markets. RSA Group expects the industry to maintain its generally robust performance in 2022, characterised by increased private sector investment in establishing new market facilities, independent food security accreditation systems and alternative business models.
Lebogang Sethusha, labour and employment law specialist at Agri SA
2021 saw a solidifying relationship between the sector and government as noted in the modification of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill which demonstrated the importance of the sector in conversation around transforming the working place. The sector further showcased the great strides made in changing our gender dimensions and growing our ability in inclusive development in the women’s economic assembly.
That being said, farmers have proved resilient against stifling growth in the efforts to absorb the double-digit increase of the minimum wage within a recovering economy. This illustrated the importance for all stakeholders to engage themselves better with the uniqueness of the sector and each subsector’s labour market when contemplating any policy decisions.
2022 will lead us into significant policy engagements around transformation in agriculture, the importance of labour migration and the role the sector plays in creating jobs for the future. These policy debates will significantly impact the agricultural labour market landscape. In light of the favourable conditions seen in 2021 and forecasted for 2022, we hope this will be succeeded by growth in employment opportunities for more agricultural workers to enter the sector as farmers recover.
In 2022, we need to ensure sustainability in our labour systems and improve the ecosystem in which agricultural workers find themselves through practical commitments to rural development and investment, food security and accessibility.
Mashudu Thobakgale, owner of a mixed farming venture in Venda, Limpopo
2021 was a tough year and I can’t wait for it to end. But it was also a year of opportunities like signing a grower contract with Peppadew International. I also had a good summer season with maize, which I happen to sell to VKB .
A main highlight is good health and a supporting wife .The outlook is very positive, on a personal level but on a macro level not so much. Petrol and diesel prices have skyrocketed and reached unprecedented levels. I’m not sure what government will do as fuel is the largest input cost in agriculture for those farmers who use generators or on the production and transportation side. I just wonder what’s going to happen with the fuel price.
Furthermore, on the infrastructure side, I just wish government can fix the roads as a matter of priority. It’s very difficult to drive on potholes year after year and the money that is supposed to go to production is diverted into fixing vehicles. Our vehicles’ lifespan is shortened by all the infrastructure not taken care of.
Breyton Milford, operations manager of Agri-Expo
There’s quite a few highlights for me. Everything is not perfect yet but I think we are much further than we were in 2020. Being in the agricultural events sector, we have slowly started opening some shows and we were fortunate to be able to host youth shows in the Western Cape and kickstart them again.
We were also privileged to host the South African dairy championship this year. It’s always a highlight, but especially during a pandemic year.
The biggest highlight for me is that I am involved in an organisation that is 190 years old this year, and the brand Agri-Expo that is 25 years old.
As a part-time farmer we have had wonderful rains in the Northern Cape especially. A drought that has been ongoing for more than seven years (in most parts) is now being broken with the rains.
For 2022 it will be important that events are opened. This will happen more when more people are vaccinated and things will normalise slowly but surely.
At all our events in the future, we will have a mandatory vaccination [policy]. I know this will get a lot of criticism but it’s the way to go. People will still be able to join virtually.
I look forward to the agricultural events show industry opening up next year.
Sehularo Sehularo, Saamtrek Saamwerk coordinator
The year 2021 has been extremely challenging for farmers and farmworkers. Weather patterns and the economy had a negative impact on agriculture.
With that said, we are hoping that in the following year there will be growth in the sector. We want to see small-scale farmers growing and accessing the market, we want to see more jobs created in the sector and we want to see government actively involved in the sector.
For the growth of agriculture in rural areas we need the support of communities. Both livestock and crop farmers are in dire need of the support from the very same communities they reside in. We are hopeful that 2022 will be a year of great achievements on all fronts.
Important to us is that we want government to really consult us as leaders in the farming sector. They speak about public participation when it’s time to pass legislation, but it is never done. The top-down approach does not work. Each case needs to be dealt with according to its own merit.
Romeo Sedibe, tomato and green pepper farmer in Matsikitane, Mpumalanga
2021 wasn’t really easy but somehow it taught me how to be strong, to believe in myself and to stay focused on the goal – always.
The challenges? Most importantly I have learned the lessons on poor management. Improper planning or management leads to big issues and is probably one of the most troublesome problems in the farming sector. I’m talking about management of resources, finances and land. In order to deal with problems in farming and rural life which I can’t control, I always need to look to the future with a positive energy.
There’s also the issue of water shortage, soil temperature and weather that have affected the business badly.
These were my challenges but somehow I now know how to deal with them, as long as I have planned properly.
My outlook for 2022 is to grow more crops and different veggies from 2021 so I can employ more people and supply some of the supermarkets and meet their demand at all times. I’d also be delighted to get some funds but funds will find me while I’m working the land.
Thapelo Phiri Jnr, organic fertiliser specialist
I truly believe that 2021 was a positive year for me and other innovators in the agriculture space. More than in previous years, we have had conversations around shifting from conventional farming to regenerative and sustainable agriculture. This was due to the Covid-19 crisis we are in, as well as the food and climate crisis we are experiencing, which needs urgent attention from the industry.
The good news is that agriculture is at the heart of achieving sustainable development goals because most of the goals are linked to agriculture. This opens opportunities for individuals like me to be at the forefront of techniques to farm more sustainably.
The biggest challenge is that the majority of farmers are still in the dark when it comes to sustainable agriculture. Most farmers still don’t understand the importance of shifting but, hopefully, with time this will change.
For 2022 I anticipate great attention given to agriculture as a whole and its potential to help the United Nations achieve its sustainable development goals. Because I believe that, as a sector, we have a role to play in developing other sectors and that the sustainable agriculture space will play a major part in life beyond Covid-19.
Neo Leburu, livestock farmer in Ganyesa, North West
2021 was an eye opener for me, honestly. There were a lot of things that I was ignoring or not paying attention to. This year I discovered my love for chickens. I have been too focused on goats and sheep and I overlooked chickens. There is money in poultry.
I’d army fellow brothers and sisters in the sector to pay attention to hatchery and also to avoid only being producers of chicks but also to go into the final stages. We need products like Neo’s chicken polony or ham.
Next year February I am hosting an event on agricultural innovations. I want my people to know there is more [opportunity] after raising those chicks or goats. We must make the final products available to the market.
I also need more farmers to enter the Chevon (goat) meat sector. We must make goat meat available in butcheries and retailer stores.
As for 2022, it has to be a year of greatness. I will be focused more on mentorship. Upcoming farmers struggle a lot because of a lack of mentorship, so next year I will be dedicating my time to making sure they get mentorship.
Chris van Beljon, Free State farmer and founder of Boere Droogtehulp
This year started off as one of the worst years ever considering the droughts. Many farmers were at their end and had to make the decision to walk away from their farming enterprises and to accept their losses. Luckily there were a couple of farmers who were able to continue with the rain received in the last few months.
I personally had a loss of many animals due the drought. After the rain, their wasn’t enough which followed so we lost some animals due to illnesses.
2021 was a challenging year for agriculture and in my opinion 2022 is going to be worse. I foresee a very bad year with all the petrol price increases, so much so that some farmers decided not to plant. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see a very good year for agriculture in 2022.
Onthatile Nkunika, livestock farmer in the Northern Cape
My journey in 2021 has had its up and downs. I have learned a lot in this period, and I will say it was a great experience and learning curve for me as a young farmer.
I believe now that I am well equipped in how to handle the challenges that come with farming. I think I am a better person after going through the journey I endured.
What I am aiming for in the coming year is to have my own space where my livestock could be alone and graze the land peacefully. I also plan to increase my own livestock because I think growth is very important in farming.
For me, the coming year is more businesses and more money.
Kutlwano Tisane, co-founder of Oracle Farming Technologies
We were able to effectively increase our carbon footprint throughout South Africa. Oracle’s Product Household line is now officially accessible at our retail partners’ shops – HomeGrowers.
Rather than contacting existing retail giants that promise shelf life, we believed it would be more prudent to develop our own (Partnered). This way, the product’s integrity is safeguarded, and we work with people who share our moral beliefs and ethics. This has really worked for us.
The issues we experienced in the steel business were generic. Currently, demand outnumbers supply.
Covid is disrupting key supply chains all over the world. Production has been progressively declining across the board, although it is expected to increase by the end of the year. Oracle, as a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), had to deal with price increases and product shortages on many occasions.
Come 2022 we expect to invest more in marketing than the previous three years combined.
We’re concentrating more on our in-house product development initiative. As well as developing new ties and strengthening bonds with all of our partners to complete our ecosystem.
Mpumezo Ndimo, farm manager and agricultural consultant
Its been a tough year, honestly. The greatest challenge has been the vegetable market prices not picking up. we found that people from a different region would come in with lower prices which makes it very hard to sell. At some point 1kg of carrots sold for R2.00 where lettuce was selling for 70 cents – can you imagine. It has been a great pain in that regard.
We’ve had some problems with hail as well that wiped out everything.
My outlook for 2022 is that i will be growing more. I’m an agricultural consultant in KwaZulu-Natal but i’ve been moving and growing into Eastern Cape. I’ll be setting up my own operations and investing more into agricultural consultations because i want to help the farmers in the area to grow so I’ll be mentoring farmers while setting up and farm on the side.
I feel like my work in KZN is done. I’ve done all i could growing the farm that i was managing. So i feel like i have to grow out of my comfort zone and now i have to go home and see what i can establish there.
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