Commercial farms begin census

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hundreds of fieldworkers from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) descended on farms across the country today as Stats SA began data collection for the 2017 Census of Commercial Agriculture (CoCA).

Leading the charge was Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke who visited the Elandsfontein Farm in Bapsfontein in Ekurhuleni. Maluleke said the census was prompted by the importance of agriculture to the country's economy.

Addressing reporters, Maluleke said the study, which was expected to be finalised and released in November next year, will establish the number of farms, their size, crop types in different geographic areas, among others.

It will also focus on farm ownership. In this regard, he said Stats SA would not enquire the names of the owners but whether a farm belonged to a trust or an individual.

The visit on Monday was one of the many embarked on for the first day of the census across the country.  

Maluleke said the study would assist the country understand issues of food security and research.

“It assists us in issues of research, as you know researchers are looking for information on agriculture or any other industry in South Africa. It also assists us in terms of investment,” Maluleke said.

The census will also focus on investment in the agriculture sector because the farming community spends a lot of money on local and external investors, he said.

“And as such, this information will be very critical when the report is released. Of course, the GDP benefits a lot from agriculture. As you’d know, from time to time, we release the GDP report and it tells you the figures on agriculture,” he said.

The exercise, which is expected to carry on into 2019, will see Stats SA deploy about 600 field staff to various commercial farms across the country.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations recommends that a country conducts a census of agriculture at least every ten years. South Africa’s last CoCA was in 2007. South Africa was due to conduct its last CoCA in 2012 but was not able to as funds were not available.

The 2017 CoCA is being conducted under the world programme for the census of agriculture, spearheaded by FAO from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2025.

Maluleke said Stats SA would maintain the confidentiality of the information gathered from farmers, saying this was critical for the organisation's credibility.

Elandsfontein Farm owner Jan Basson welcomed the study, saying it was nothing to be sinister about.

“To measure is to know and I think that is the main thing. There’s nothing sinister about it. At least now we’ll know where we are in South Africa, we’ll know where we are within the economy. We can also for ourselves see where we are with the rest of the world. I don’t mind being part of this,” he said.

Regarding fears that the study was linked to the proposed land expropriation, Basson said: “We all live in South Africa, and we must be part of it. At least at this stage we feel we do have a platform that we can talk through. The President is listening to AgriSA and whoever is the spokesperson for whichever union. Why should we resist? I’m not afraid. There were wrongs in the past; they must be set right. Two wrongs don’t make a right, if we do it the proper way, everyone will benefit”. –