Agricultural employment likely to be stable, not growing in South Africa

The South African Food and Agricultural Policy Bureau (BFAP) has warned that the apparent increase in the number of jobs in agriculture in the second quarter of this year compared to the first quarter may not be real.

According to figures recently released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), the number of agricultural jobs was 21,862,000 in the second quarter, an 8% increase from the 792,000 of those jobs in the first quarter of 21. Looking only at farm workers, the quarter-on-quarter increase was 12%.

However, as the BFAP had previously warned, when analyzing the numbers for Q1 21, the numbers showed a significant decline in agricultural employment as agriculture had one of the best years of growth in recent times. A spokesman for the bureau stated: “The likely conclusion was that the change in survey methodology from face-to-face questionnaires to telephone interviews had a significant impact on the number of responses and that the statistical accuracy of agricultural employment may have led to an undercounting of farm workers. ”

A key sector within agriculture in terms of employment has been fruit exports, labor intensive as it is. This sector was mainly concentrated in the Western Cape, making this province the one with the largest number of agricultural jobs. Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal have battled for second place in terms of jobs for the past six years, followed by Eastern Cape and then Free State. Unsurprisingly, the province with the fewest agricultural jobs was the highly urbanized Gauteng.

The fruit export sector had a good year. By 2021, the export volumes for table grapes rose by 13%, for apples by 8%, lemons 7%, pears 1%, soft citrus fruits 17%, plums and plums 65%, peaches 14% and nectarines 22%. Those higher numbers, according to BFAP, should lead to more jobs. Only oranges have recorded a decline in export volume of 12% in the year to date. However, while the harvest of all other fruits mentioned above was complete, the orange harvest was only halfway through (and in 2020 the orange harvest had an early start), so the end result could be very different.


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