Robust’ outlook for SA’s troubled star performer

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After two quarters of disappointing performance, South Africa’s agriculture sector could be on the road to “robust” recovery.

That’s the view of agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo, commenting on the underwhelming performance of the sector in the last quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023.

“Agriculture has in recent years been a star performer,” says advocacy group FairPlay.

“However it contracted by 2.4% year-on-year (y-o-y) in the fourth quarter of 2022, and then by 12.3% y-o-y 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.”

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.”

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