Government’s agri jobs target not attainable, Agbiz

Creating 500 000 jobs in agriculture by 2019 as government was promising to do, was not viable with current farming technologies, prevailing rainfall patterns in the Western Cape, or the current appetite for investment in agriculture.

Government’s agri jobs target not attainable, Agbiz
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This was according to Wandile Sihlobo, head of economic and agribusiness intelligence at Agbiz, speaking at the company’s recent media day in Pretoria.

Sihlobo said a total of only 1,8 million jobs had been created in agriculture between 1900 and 2017, which placed government’s high targets for job creation into perspective.

The agricultural sector had also experienced major job losses between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017.

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“Agriculture jobs are down. A large share [of the losses] comes from the Western Cape as a result of the drought. A similar picture will [be evident] in the Western Cape [next year]; declines in other provinces were seasonal,” Sihlobo said.

The introduction of the national minimum wage only had a slight impact on job losses in the Western Cape, while the full impact of the minimum wage on job losses around the country would only become evident this year, he added.

In the Western Cape, figures for harvested grapes in the fourth quarter of 2018, would also present a more accurate picture of real job losses, as seasonal labourers were most vulnerable to job losses, Sihlobo explained.

“When business confidence declines personal investment also declines. The key is to lift the spirits of businesses. Capital investment in agriculture is at its lowest since the [second] quarter of 2010. When asked why, investors replied that the uncertainty about land reform issues held them back,” he said.

The forecast of a La Niña weather system would mean good rainfall for SA’s summer rainfall areas in 2018, which would lead to more agricultural jobs being created.

However, favourable weather conditions would mean large grain harvests, which would put pressure on prices, with white maize prices, for example, expected to remain low. In addition, it would also result in less rain for the Western Cape, he said.

There were, however, some signs of recovery, with good tractor sales figures indicating that producers were optimistic about the coming season, he said.

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Gerhard Uys grew up as a real city lad, but spends his free time hiking and visiting family farms. He learnt the journalism trade as a freelance writer and photographer in the lifestyle industry, but having decided that he will be a cattle farmer by the age of 45 he now indulges his passion for farming by writing about agriculture. He feels Farmer’s Weekly is a platform for both developed and emerging farmers to learn additional farming skills and therefore takes the job of relaying practical information seriously.