The South African Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) has cautioned that the apparent increase in the number of agricultural jobs during the second quarter of this year when compared to the first quarter might not actually be real.
According to figures, recently released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), the number of agricultural jobs in 2Q21 was 862,000, an 8% increase over the 792,000 such jobs in 1Q21. Looking only at farm workers, the quarter-on-quarter increase was 12%.
However, as the BFAP had previously cautioned, when analyzing the figures for 1Q21, the numbers showed a significant decline in agricultural employment at the same time that agriculture was experiencing one of its best growth years in recent times. A bureau spokesperson elaborated: “The likely conclusion was that the change of survey methodology from in-person questionnaires to telephonic interviews had a significant impact on the number of responses and that the statistical accuracy of farm employment may have led to undercounting of farm workers.”
A key sector within agriculture, in employment terms, was fruit exports, labor intensive as it is. This sector was largely concentrated in the Western Cape, making that province the one with the greatest number of agricultural jobs. Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal have, over the past six years, vied for second place regarding jobs, followed by the Eastern Cape and then the Free State. Unsurprisingly, the province with the lowest number of agricultural jobs was heavily urbanized Gauteng.
The fruits export sector enjoyed a good year. For 2021 so far, export volumes for table grapes were up 13%, for apples it was an increase of 8%, lemons 7%, pears 1%, soft citrus 17%, plums and prunes 65%, peaches 14% and nectarines 22%. These higher numbers, BFAP pointed out, should result in more jobs. Only oranges recorded a decline in export volumes during the year to date, of 12%. However, while the harvesting of all the other abovementioned fruits had been concluded, the orange harvest was only half finished (and 2020 had seen an early start to the orange harvest), so the final result could be very different.