Agriculture on a bumpy road to recovery

South Africa’s poor agricultural performance in the first quarter of 2023 nearly pushed the country into a recession, but the prospects for the rest of the year are better.

Agriculture has in recent years been a star performer. However it contracted by 2.4% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2022, and then by 12.3% year on year in the first quarter of this year. The economy as a whole grew by 0.4% in that quarter, narrowly avoiding a technical recession, which is defined by two successive quarters of negative growth.

Agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo attributed the sharp contraction to adverse weather, delayed harvests, power cuts and rail and harbour infrastructure problems.

However, he predicted a “robust performance” for the rest of the year, with annual agricultural growth of about 3%.

“South Africa’s 2022-23 summer crops are in good shape,” he said.

“For example, the maize harvest is estimated at 16.1 million tonnes, 5% higher than the 2021-22 season’s harvest and the third-largest harvest on record. The soybean harvest could reach a record 2.8 million tonnes.”

Nice to know that some bad news is not so bad after all.