The history of agricultural statistics in South Africa goes back as far back as the beginning of the 20th century. With the exception of the World Wars and great depression years, an agricultural census was conducted on annual basis in the first half of the 20th century. As agriculture’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) decreased over the years, so did the frequency of conducting agricultural censuses. Post 1994, agricultural censuses have been conducted on a five yearly basis, with annual surveys being conducted in between the census years. Until now, agricultural censuses and surveys have largely concentrated on commercial agriculture leaving out small-scale and subsistence agriculture.
In 2009, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) conducted an audit of agricultural statistics in the country. One of the findings was that the country lacked information on smallholder and subsistence agriculture. The current list of farmers being used to conduct surveys was mainly confined to commercial agriculture.
A decision was taken that three questions related to agriculture would be included in the Population Census 2011 (Census 2011) questionnaire. The main objective was to identify all households involved in agriculture in the country, so that a complete frame of all individuals and entities involved in agriculture (both subsistence and commercial) could be generated. This will allow for a comprehensive agricultural census to be conducted.
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