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TitleFarm Workers' Living and Working Conditions in South Africa
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Figure 2.13: Employment in the agricultural sector in the Northern Cape by main occupation

group, 2008-2014 (Source: Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 2008-2014)

No case studies were conducted in the Northern Cape Province towards this research project.

The Free State

With respect to employment in agriculture, the Free State is a medium-to-small sized province.

Figure 2.14 shows that during the period from the first quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2014,

total employment in the sector ranged 55 000 to 93 000, with an average of 72 100. During that

period employment in the agricultural sector in the Free State declined at an average rate of 3501

jobs per annum (4.9% of average employment). The rate of labour shedding was not fairly constant

over time, excluding an unexpected spike in estimated employment in the first quarter of 2013. The

level of mechanization in agriculture in the Free State is high compared to the national average


Estimated employment of workers in elementary occupations in the sector spiked in the first half of

2013. Notwithstanding that spike, employment of elementary workers in the sector has steadily

increased over the past two years.


The level of mechanisation is measured as the ratio of people employed as machine operators and
assemblers to those employed in elementary occupations in the sector. The Free State ranks 2

out of the

nine provinces with an average value of 0.263 for the period 2008Q1 to 2014Q3 compared to a national
average of 0.112.

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Figure 2.14: Employment in the agricultural sector in the Free State by main occupation group,

2008-2014 (Source: Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 2008-2014).

One case study was conducted in the Free State. The remainder of this section provides some

context for maize production in South Africa.

Background information on grain production in South Africa

Figure 2.15 presents recent trends in gross value of production for various field crops, including

maize, in South Africa from 2001/02 to 2012/13. It is evident that, firstly, the maize industry is

considerably larger that the wheat, sunflower and soybeans industries; and secondly, that the gross

value of maize production is fluctuates considerably. The fluctuation in value is attributable to both

yield and price risks. Yield risks are high because the majority of maize production is rain-fed, and

the climate of summer grain producing areas is subject to a high degree of rainfall variability.

Grain production is heavily dependent on the use of chemical fertilizer. Fertilizer costs tend to

account for 25 per cent of the total variable costs for producers and about 13 per cent of gross

production value in crop production in South Africa. Increasing real fertiliser prices over the past

decade have prompted farmers to achieve improved efficiency in the use of fertilizer, inter alia

through the use of “precision farming” methods. These methods involve the use of increasingly

sophisticated equipment combined with information technology (Maine, et al., 2004).

The maize price for SA producers is heavily dependent on production figures in the USA. In 2013 and

2014 the USA recorded record yields, which placed downward pressure on world maize prices.

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