September 19, 2023

Need for more young people in the agricultural sector

The South African agricultural sector is slowly attracting more and more young farmers. But to further persuade people to join, concrete examples of supported young entrepreneurs are paramount, say agricultural economists at the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), Kayalethu Sotsha and Khodani Madoula.

Food insecurity, unemployment and inequality remain a “triple” challenge facing South Africa. NAMC’s food basket price monitor remains high at 7.8% year over year, from April 2021 to April 2022, despite a 1.1% decline recorded month on year. other between March 2022 and April 2022.

Food prices, in general, are mainly determined by global factors, in particular the Russian-Ukrainian war, which has raised concerns about global supply, leading to export bans from some of the largest agricultural exporters such as Indonesia (palm oil) and India (wheat).

Agbiz research also observed that in March 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) World Food Price Index reached its highest level with an average of 170 points since its creation in 1990, mainly following the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Kayalethu Sotsha, Senior Economist: Smallholder Market Access at the National Agricultural Marketing Council. Photo: Supplied/NAMC

In addition, FAO data on hunger and food insecurity indicate that the number of undernourished people in South Africa has fallen from a three-year average of 1.8 million in 2009-2011 to 3.8 million in 2018-2020, the fastest growth recorded to date. between 2019 and 2020.

Although the Bureau of Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) cautions against interpreting employment statistics citing methodological issues, the Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS) reported that in the first quarter by 2022, unemployment in South Africa has decreased by 0.8% to 34.5%. from quarter to quarter.

This is still 1.9% more year-on-year, compared to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, the QLFS shows that youth unemployment was above the national average at 63.9% and 42.1 % for age groups 15 to 15 years. 24 and 25-34 respectively and regardless of educational level.

In contrast, South Africa’s gross domestic production (GDP) grew by 1.9% in the first quarter of 2022. This is an improvement from the 1.4% recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021. L Agriculture continues with good performance thanks to favorable rainfall and increased planted area.

Although the sector recorded a decline in employment in the first quarter of 2022, it recorded the highest employment growth at 6.6% year-on-year compared to other sectors, such as transport (6 .4%), manufacturing (5.5%), mining (2.7%) and trade (0.5%), among those that recorded positive growth.

Entry into agriculture still difficult

Khodani Madula is an agricultural economist (trainee) with the Markets and Economic Research Center (MERC) division of the National Agricultural Marketing Council.  Photo: Supplied/NAMC
Khodani Madula is an agricultural economist (intern) in the Markets and Economic Research Center (MERC) division of NAMC. Photo: Supplied/NAMC

Although this performance and agriculture has been identified as one of the key drivers of South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) by the President, it is still slow to address the integration of small farmers in the mainstream economy, with youth participation being part of the challenge. .

In a article by Sipho Stuurman, Agri SA called for young people to join the agricultural sector, citing the dominance of senior farmers with the average age of a farmer in South Africa estimated at around 57 years. In doing so, Agri SA has however recognized that entry into the sector remains difficult.

The establishment of the Agriculture and Agro-industry Master Plan (AAMP), among other sectoral master plans, gives hope that this challenge will be among the priorities in the development of the agricultural sector as it aims to improve economic growth, inclusiveness and population unemployment. other stuff.

do whatever it takes

In terms of youth involvement in the sector, NAMC’s Quarterly Agripreneur Report featured 31 young agripreneurs in the youth category between March 2020 and June 2022, with women constituting 74% of these agripreneurs. 29% of these agripreneurs have a degree in agriculture, while the rest have degrees in business administration, engineering, social sciences, psychology and tourism.

The majority (32%) are involved in vegetable production, followed by those involved in mixed farming (23%) and poultry (19%). The others are involved in distribution, agro-industry and training. 10% are involved in both production and agribusiness, which implies that they add value to their products and increase their margins throughout the value chain.

On average, these farmers create a maximum of three permanent jobs and a maximum of 10 temporary jobs. They have a wide range of challenges, but the most common include:

  • Lack of infrastructure (storage, irrigation and poultry houses);
  • Limited access to inputs (eg day-old chicks);
  • Lack of access to land and water as well as the inability to obtain long-term lease contracts for land;
  • Absence of take-off agreements;
  • Lack of financing for small producers;
  • High input costs; and
  • Cheap chicken imports.

Despite these challenges and the fact that many of them have been pushed into farming for lack of employment opportunities in their respective careers, agripreneurs are determined to do whatever it takes to succeed and create opportunities. employment for others, with some pointing to farming as their wisest pursuit. The key factor is their admission that they knew it wasn’t going to be easy for them.

There could be many more such examples in the country and they provide the foundation on which AAMP can build as it strives to rebuild and restructure the agricultural sector. Supporting young agripreneurs will improve prospects for succession in the sector and provide a chance to persuade more to join us.

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