Planning Papers

Surveying Commercial & Subsistence Agriculture #

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Author(s):  Beatrice Conradie, School of Economics

At the last count agriculture employed twice as many people as the mining sector and about four fifths of the number employed in the manufacturing sector. Together with domestic work, farm work is often seen as employment of last resort, a quasi-formal sector on the fringes of respectability. Much has been done since 1994 to improve job security, working conditions and, since 2003, pay for farm workers, but inadequate farm data allow only the sketchiest tracking of this process.  Income dynamics in agriculture are important for various reasons : On the commercial side, farming has put been under pressure by falling product prices in a global market and rising costs of production (Barrientos & Kritzinger, 2004). For land reform reasons it is important to know if commercial farming is viable. At the same time workers are supposed to have benefited from farm labour market reforms, but with a few small exceptions (Du Toit & Ally, 2003; Conradie, 2007) we simply do not know to what extent this has happened. On the subsistence side, ASGISA has identified agriculture as a key industry in the second economy (Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2006). We need good baseline data on subsistence agriculture and ongoing collection of reliable statistics to monitor the success of this initiative.