Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

More jobs in agriculture in third quarter, good news – Didiza

"An uptick in employment numbers is a step in the right direction to help fight the scourge of unemployment in the country."

More jobs in agriculture in the third quarter is good news with 61 000 jobs added. A total of 956 000 people is now employed in agriculture.

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, says she is pleased with the agricultural sector’s positive contribution to the creation of employment in the country.

The total of 956 000 jobs is the highest employment figure in agriculture since the start of the modern democratic era. The last time the agricultural sector recorded a million jobs was in 1993, an era which was underpinned by subsidies.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey for October indicated that the total number of employed people in the country increased by 399 000 to 16.7 million in the third quarter, compared to 16.3 million in the second quarter.

These changes in employment resulted in the official unemployment rate decreasing 0.7 of a percentage point from 32.6% in the second quarter to 31.9% in the third quarter of 2023. The latest employment figures suggest that the economy is gradually recovering and starting to create some jobs.

“The agricultural sector has demonstrated its resilience and capability to support the overall South African economic recovery and growth, both in terms of jobs creation and contribution to the economy.

“The positive jobs in agriculture attest to the continuous commitment by government, industry, labour and other value chain players to implement inclusive growth and job-creation measures contained in the Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan,” Didiza says.

“The resuscitation of agriculture in rural areas and continued expansion of export opportunities are amongst the enablers that have brought growth and stability in the sector.”

ALSO READ: Unemployment rate decreases slightly to 31.9%

Jobs in agriculture grew by 10% in past year

Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Commercial, says agriculture defied the odds with a 10% year-on-year increase in jobs during the third quarter.

“The Quarterly Labour Force Survey data confirmed the resilience of agriculture as it defied the odds and made a significant improvement in employment in the sector. The agriculture sector was boosted with an addition of 61 146 jobs compared to the previous quarter and 82 984 jobs compared to a year ago, despite the tough operating environment characterised by disease outbreaks and infrastructure challenges, such as a dilapidated road network.”

Makube says at current levels employment in the primary agriculture sector is well above the longer-term trend of 793 000 people.

“The seasonal increase in activity, with bumper harvests in full swing for both the field (grains and oilseeds) and horticultural crops in the third quarter, more than offsets declines in the livestock industry which is the biggest with a share of 42% of total gross producer value of agriculture during the 2021/2022 season.”

He says an uptick in employment numbers is a step in the right direction to help fight the scourge of unemployment in the country.

“Agriculture has the potential to add more jobs and this may be realised if impediments to growth are addressed by expediting the improvement of efficiencies in ports, fixing the rail system to ensure bulk agriculture produce gets back on rail and repairing road infrastructure that has proven costly for producers.”

In addition, he says, the seasonal outlook has improved significantly as the El Nino scare seems to have dissipated with forecasts still predicting more rains in the early part of the current crop season, which bodes well for agriculture.

“Farmers are even optimistic in the field crop category with the first intentions to plant indicating an increase of 2% compared to a year ago for maize, the country’s biggest staple.”

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits