The COVID-19 pandemic is fast changing the way we live our lives, without exception. The virus has affected every facet of life – health and safety, travel, school and work, and access to basic provisions, such as food. Many supermarkets are in a frenzy as people scramble to secure basic needs amidst impending uncertainty. In this note, we attempt to understand the impact of the COVID-19 on South Africa’s agricultural sector and also food supplies. We offer perspectives on perceived food shortage, agricultural commodities price dynamics, farmers indebtedness and policies that can be implemented. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
After falling to the lowest monthly level in six years in January 2020, South Africa’s tractor sales recovered by 46% m/m in February 2020 to 485 units. While encouraging, this is still 8% lower than the corresponding period in 2019. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
South Africa’s farming economy was not in good shape in 2019. This is clear from the agricultural GDP data released this morning by Statistics South Africa. The data show a 6.9% year-on-year contraction for 2019, which is a second consecutive year of contraction in South Africa’s farm economy. While worse than our initial expectations of a 4.0% y/y contraction, this is unsurprising. The output of various crops and horticulture produce declined notably in 2019 because of the drought, while the livestock was negatively affected by the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
South Africa’s food prices increased at a relatively slower pace in January 2020 compared to December 2019. The data released this morning by Statistics South Africa shows that the country’s food price inflation was at 3.7% y/y in January 2020, while the previous month was 3.8% y/y. This deceleration, however, was not across the food basket. Only price inflation of bread and cereals; fish; and vegetables decelerated. But this was enough to overshadow the increases in meat; milk, eggs and cheese; oil and fats; fruit; sugar, sweets and desserts. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
My last column two weeks ago painted a bleak picture of SA’s 2019/2020 agricultural outlook, highlighting prospects of drought in some regions of the country. Lately, conditions have improved notably, and farmers managed to plant the area they intended.- Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist *Written for and first published in Business Day
For years Zimbabwe has maintained a ban on the importation or growing of genetically modified (GM) maize. While the policy disadvantaged farmers who couldn’t produce higher yields from GM seeds as neighbouring South Africa, it also provided protection through phyto-sanitary barriers that protected the country’s non-GM maize producers. The policy also disadvantaged consumers who were compelled to purchase higher-priced maize and its products, which would have been relatively cheaper if the country produced higher volumes from GM seed. -Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
In September 2019, Agbiz head of Legal Intelligence, Theo Boshoff, was granted the opportunity to present on climate change, Africa and the role of agricultural law at the International Bar Association (IBA)'s annual conference in Seoul, South Korea. Following this conference, the IBA has confirmed that Theo will serve a two-year term ending in December 2021 on the Legal Practice Division's Agricultural Law Section.
While South Africa’s 2019/20 summer crop production season started on a negative footing with delayed rainfall across the country, farmers managed to plant the area they intended. This was confirmed by the preliminary plantings data released this afternoon by South Africa’s Crop Estimate Committee (CEC) which shows South Africa’s 2019/20 summer crop area at 3.97 million hectares. This is up 1% and 8% from the intentions to plant data released in October 2019 and area planted in 2018/19 season, respectively. There is an improvement in area plantings of all crops with the exception of sorghum and dry beans whose area planting fell by 28% y/y and 13% y/y, respectively. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
Agbiz has submitted its written inputs on the Draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation to the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Commitee, Dr Mathole Motshekga. The Bill was approved in early December before it was opened for public comment. In the submission, Agbiz reiterated its position that land reform objectives can be achieved without resorting to expropriation at nil compensation, if the administrative process is overhauled to ensure efficient administration.
On Friday 17 January, the acting director general of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DWS) published a notice in the Government Gazette requiring all irrigators to install water meters and report their monthly consumption. This notice specifically relates to those water users who do not form part of a water user association nor an irrigation board. Water users were given 30 working days to comply. - Theo Boshoff, Agbiz head of Legal Intelligence