SA takes stock of commercial farming

Monday, October 8, 2018

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) officials will from 15 October begin visiting farms across the country to gather data as the agency ascertains South Africa's state of commercial agriculture. 

Addressing journalists at a media briefing in Pretoria on Monday, Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said Stats SA is ready for the Census of Commercial Agriculture (CoCA) 2017.   

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 study, according to Stats SA, will establish the number of farms, the size of farms, crop types being farmed in different geographic areas, and agricultural inputs such as irrigation usage. 

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. Maluleke said the country was due to conduct one in 2012 but this was not done due to a lack of funds. The 2017 CoCA is conducted under the world programme for the census of agriculture, spearheaded by FAO from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2025. 

“The objective is to generate information on the size, structure and the nature of commercial agriculture. We need to provide data for benchmarking and for the reconciliation of agricultural services.

“Furthermore, we need to provide frames for our sample surveys. We need to make sure that we have the latest and properly referenced frames,” Maluleke said. 

Maluleke said the census was important for agricultural planning. “We need to deal with issues of food security. We need to deal with gender parity, [and] investment and economic growth. We need this crucial data…”

 Maluleke said that the results of the census would also assist the country respond to issues of the wellbeing of the agricultural environment.

 Other elements to be covered by the census include work structure; jobs being created; and salaries and wages, and how these are determined. 

“We need baseline data for monitoring and valuation. We need to know where we are going and to understand the issues we are dealing with.

“We need to deal with the contribution of agriculture to national accounts and specifically to the system of environmental accounts. This is census is properly placed within the milieu of things we are addressing and dealing with in society.” 

The general objective, Maluleke said, is to collect basic quantitative information on South Africa’s agricultural sector. 

The Statistician-General pleaded with farmers to cooperate with Stats SA fieldworkers. 

“Participate in the agricultural census. This data is the only source of comprehensive and impartial data about agriculture. As a requirement by the Statistics Act, we may not disclose any personal information.” 

Although Stats SA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Agriculture, the agency will collect the information independently. 

Maluleke said data collection would finish in June 2019, with the results of the census released in November 2019. –