Results of agricultural census released at a crucial time
24 March 2020
Agri SA welcomes the release of results for the latest1 Census of Commercial Agriculture (CoCA). We realise that good decision-making on the spectrum of matters that affect agriculture should be based on accurate and reliable information.
This includes aspects such as infrastructure, services, housing, finance and employment. CoCA 2017 is therefore very important for both farmers and the agricultural industry. In the current context of COVID-19, this is even more so.
The preliminary results of the 2017 agricultural census confirm the important role that this sector plays within the South African economy and our society. It provides a concise overview of trends in respect of agriculture’s role as food and fibre provider and the structural changes that can be observed amid changes in the local policy environment as well as in the global market.
It is important to bear in mind that this census is incomplete in that it does not cover the entire agricultural spectrum. For example, it does not include information on former homelands, subsistence farming and beneficiaries of land reform. These results only cover commercial agriculture’s core 40 122 farming units. For this reason, it remains difficult to conduct a full valuation of contributions and trends in respect of resources excluded from the census and which change hands in the transformation process.
Some of the key findings2 highlighted by Stats SA include:
“The largest proportion of farms was in the farming of animals (13 639 farms or 33,9% of the total), followed by mixed farming (12 458 or 31,1%) and growing of cereals and other crops (8 559 or 21,3%).
The province with the highest number of farms in 2017 was Free State (7 951 farms or 19,8% of the national total), followed by Western Cape (6 937 or 17,3%), North West (4 920 or 12,3%) and Northern Cape (4 829 or 12,0%).
Comparing 2007 and 2017, the largest gain in percentage share of income was in horticulture (+2,4 percentage points, from 17,4% in 2007 to 19,8% in 2017). Over the same period, the largest loss in percentage share was in mixed farming (4,1 percentage points, from 32,7% to 28,6%).
The provinces with the largest gains in the share of national income between 2007 and 2017 were Limpopo (+2,0 percentage points, from 7,4% to 9,4%), Gauteng (+1,9 percentage points, from 7,8% to 9,7%) and Eastern Cape (+1,5 percentage points, from 6,6% to 8,1%). Western Cape lost the biggest percentage share (-2,4 percentage points, from 21,7% to 19,3%).
The total number of persons employed in commercial agriculture as on 30 June 2018 was 757 628, down from 769 594 on 28 February 2007 (1,6%).
In terms of employment, the major commercial agriculture activity in 2017 was horticulture (268 740 employees or 35,5% of the total), followed by mixed farming (185 863 or 24,5%) and farming of animals (162 116 or 21,4%).”
Agri SA has familiarised itself with Stats SA’s confidential treatment of respondent’s information and has given its full support by encouraging our affiliates and commercial farmers to submit their forms as fully and timeously as possible.
Agri SA wishes to thank its members for their participation to ensure a usable result that can support good decision-making. We also wish to thank Stats SA for their hard work and dedication to make the census a success.
Issued by Thea Liebenberg, Media Liaison Officer, Agri SA, 24 March 2020
 Questionnaires were completed for the financial year ended on any date between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018. The previous census was for 2007.
2 Stats SA. (2020). Key findings: Census of Commercial Agriculture, 2017: Financial and Production Statistics. Available online: http://www.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=1856&PPN=Report-11-02-01&SCH=7902