Rice ranks second in the four major agricultural products that South Africa imports annually and account for 7% of the US$6,9 billion spent on agricultural products imports in 2021. Other products are wheat, palm oil and poultry products. In volumes terms, South Africa imported about 1,1 million tonnes of rice, both for annual consumption and exports to the neighbouring countries. The latest data from the International Grains Council (IGC) suggests that this volume could remain unchanged in 2022. Thus, the IGC has maintained its estimate for this year at 1,1 million tonnes (Exhibit 1).
The United States Department of Agriculture lowered its 2021/22 forecast for Brazil’s soybean planted area further, to 39.8 million hectares (ha) and soybean production to 134.5 million metric tons (MMT). From the last estimates, weather conditions have continued to worsen in key producing regions. Principally, the drought in the south of the country has dampened prospects for a record crop. Post consequently also lowered the 2021/22 soybean export forecast to 86.8 MMT.
South Africa's agricultural machinery industry has had two consecutive years of robust sales boosted by improved farmers finances on the back of a large harvest in 2019/20 and 2020/21, combined with higher commodity prices, particularly in grains and oilseeds.1 However, 2022 will likely change the trend and show moderate agricultural machinery sales as the new machinery's replacement rate will probably be lower than the previous years. Moreover, the crop harvest, especially grains and oilseeds, which were the primary drivers of sales in the past few years, could show a lower yield this year than the past two seasons because of the excessive rains since the start of the 2021/22 production season. This could reduce the profitability of various farming businesses and, after that, equipment purchases.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey data for the fourth quarter of 2019 show that South Africa’s primary agricultural employment increased by 4.2% (or 36 000 jobs) from the corresponding period last year to 885 000 (see Exhibit 1). The notable job gains were mainly in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo. This was largely in the horticulture, field crops and livestock subsectors. These activities, however, were not evenly spread across all provinces. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
The South African agricultural machinery market started the year on a bad footing. Tractor sales were down 14% y/y, with 333 units sold. This is the lowest monthly sales data that has been recorded over the past six years. This sales data is, however, unsurprising as it is a continuation of the 2019 tractor sales trend. -Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
In times of uncertainty, as we are in during COVID-19 and a 21-days lockdown in South Africa, any unusual rise in prices of goods which society relies on the most can be discomforting. This is particularly the case with South Africa’s staple white maize prices, which on 23 March 2020 reached the highest levels last seen in 2016, which was a drought period, at R3 981 per tonne. The question some might be confronted with is whether such price moves should be a concern to the extent that policymakers might need to intervene in the market by setting a price cap? The short answer is no. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist
The outbreak of Covid-19 will change the way we live our lives, without exception. The virus has raised serious concerns in society, ranging from health safety and economic conditions to essential food supplies. In the UK, US and parts of SA we are starting to see empty shelves as consumers stockpile in fear of disruptions to global food chains. This has given rise to questions whether SA could experience food shortages in the near to medium term. I doubt that this will be the case, at least on a national level for most food products. - Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo
In the second week of July 2020, the Economic Transformation Committee of the African National Congress (ANC) and Business for South Africa (B4SA) , released their respective strategy documents for the post-COVID-19 inclusive economy recovery for South Africa. Both the ANC and B4SA prioritised the agriculture sector, for its transformative potential and aligned their strategies with chapter six of the National Development Plan (NDP) , which reflects the commitment of both the government and private sector to the larger development agenda of South Africa. - Wandile Sihlobo, Agbiz chief economist