Three facts from the Census of Commercial Agriculture

Right now, if a natural disaster happened in Gauteng’s West Rand district, 31% of the nation’s carrot crop would be at risk. Stats SA’s latest set of reports on commercial agriculture show how certain agricultural activities are concentrated in a few, often relatively small, geographical areas.

If we take a national view, the production of field crops (examples include maize, barley, grass and wheat) is concentrated in the provinces of Free State, Mpumalanga and North West. Horticultural products (vegetables and fruit) are mainly produced by Western Cape and Limpopo. North West, Gauteng, Free State and Western Cape are the focus of the country’s production of livestock (in terms of income).

The beauty of the Census of Commercial Agriculture is that it allows us to drill down into each province and explore the data across districts and local municipalities.

Fact 1: Sheep in the Pixley ka Seme district outnumber people six-to-one

The Northern Cape district of Pixley ka Seme is sparsely populated. Covering an area of just over 100 000 square kilometres, the district includes towns such as Victoria West, De Aar and Colesburg.

The almost 202 000 people that live there are not alone. The district is also home to 1,3 million sheep, the highest population of sheep in the country. With 8 million sheep living on commercial farms nationwide, Pixley ka Seme boasts 16% of the national sheep population.

Although sheep dominate Pixley ka Seme, they are not the most popular animal nationwide. South African commercial farms house a total of 157 million chickens. What is astounding is that just over a billion chickens (yes, a thousand million) were sold in 2017. In comparison, commercial agriculture sold 3,1 million sheep over the same period.

Chickens were the most sold livestock product nationally in 2017, followed by cattle (3,6 million), sheep (3,1 million) and pigs (2,2 million).

A few geographical areas dominate key livestock markets. Tshwane in Gauteng sold one in every five chickens nationwide. The Sarah Baartman district in Eastern Cape sold 39% of South Africa’s goats. Ostrich sales were concentrated in the Eden district (which includes Oudtshoorn) in Western Cape, responsible for 57% of national sales.

See Census of Commercial Agriculture fact sheet #13 for more on livestock (download here).

Fact 2: Gauteng produces over a third of our nation’s carrots

As mentioned above, the West Rand district in Gauteng is our leading carrot grower (by volume). The district produced 69 638 metric tons of carrots in 2017, contributing 31% to South Africa’s total production of 226 017 metric tons.

Together with much smaller carrot crops in Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and Tshwane, Gauteng as a whole contributed 35% to national production.

Exploring the data for other horticultural products (which includes fruit, vegetables and nuts), the following districts emerge as agricultural heavy hitters.

  • Bojanala Platinum in North West produced 44% of the nation’s beetroot.
  • Ehlanzeni in Mpumalanga produced 67% of South Africa’s bananas. The district was also responsible for 57% of macadamia nut production.
  • Overberg in Western Cape produced 40% of all our apples.
  • Mopani in Limpopo produced 43% of the country’s avocados, 25% of oranges and 64% of all our mangos.
  • Lejweleputswa in Free Sate produced 23% of the national potato crop.
  • Cape Winelands in Western Cape produced 60% of the nation’s grapes.
  • The nation’s pineapple crop (63%) is concentrated in the Sarah Baartman district in Eastern Cape. This district also was responsible for 35% of national lemon production.

South Africa’s biggest horticultural products in 2017 were potatoes, oranges, grapes and apples.

See Census of Commercial Agriculture fact sheet #12 for more on horticulture (download here).

Fact 3: The Overberg district produces nearly all our barley

Not only does the Overberg district in Western Cape produce a lot of our apples, it also strongly dominates the production of barley, responsible for 81% of production nationwide. Overberg is also the leading producer of wheat, responsible for 16% of national output (by volume).

Field crops are important for food security, and they account for the largest portion of cultivated land in South Africa. A large proportion of field crops are planted on dry land (in contrast to using irrigation systems); in other words, much of South Africa’s field crops are dependent on the availability of rainfall.

The top five field crop products produced nationally by commercial agriculture in 2017 were maize, sugarcane, lucerne, wheat and soya beans.

Field crop production exhibited less geographical concentration than horticulture and animal production, but – together with Overberg – there are a few notable examples.

As mentioned previously, Lejweleputswa in Free State is the leading potato-producing district in the country. It is also the leading maize producer, responsible for 21% of South Africa’s total crop.

The Thabo Mofutsanyane district in Free State is the leading producer of sunflower seeds, churning out almost a quarter of all seeds produced nationwide.

See Census of Commercial Agriculture fact sheet #11 for more on field crops (download here).

What is the Census of Commercial Agriculture?

The general objective of the 2017 Census of Commercial Agriculture was to collect quantitative information on South Africa’s commercial agriculture that is essential for planning, policy formulation and food security. Visiting commercial farms across the country, Stats SA collected a wealth of data on production, finances, employment and land use.

For more information, download the national report, media presentation and summary fact sheets here.

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