SA agricultural employment down 8% year-on-year in Q4

Source: Wandile Sihlobo, Bizcommunity, 4 March 2021, photo credit: Alaister Russell/Times Live

Although South Africa’s agricultural economy performed robustly in 2020, possibly grew by between 10-13%, according to estimates, employment numbers remain disappointing. The data released by Statistics South Africa shows that South Africa’s primary agricultural jobs were down 8% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2020, with 810 209 people employed.

There was a decline in employment across most provinces except for the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga, which registered job gains from the last quarter of 2019. The most considerable headcount losses were in the Western Cape, amounting to about 51,000 below 2019. KwaZulu-Natal followed this, with jobs down by 21,000 compared to the last quarter of 2019.

Except for the Western and Northern Cape, we suspect that social distancing measures that were enforced to limit the virus’ spread might have contributed to the decline in employment. Some farmers that would have typically employed seasonal workers around this period of the year were discouraged.

We say this because the Free State, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo are amongst provinces with a good field crop and horticulture harvest in 2020. In the Western and Northern Cape case, the constrained cash flow following the ban of wine and alcohol sales at various intervals of the lockdown has possibly contributed to the decline in employment. The producers in the provinces expressed a similar view.

From a subsector perspective, only the forestry and fisheries industries recorded an overall increase in employment in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with the previous year. All other subsectors recorded a decline in employment.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.