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Land tenure limits Eastern Cape’s crops

Author: Wandile Sihlobo

Like many agricultural industry representatives, at this time of year, I travel the country, conducting farm visits and regional meetings. Recently, I visited Matatiele, in the Eastern Cape, to talk to emerging grain producers.

On Mthatha’s outskirts I noticed fertile maize fields. I could see joy in the eyes of emerging farmers when I mentioned rising maize prices. One elderly man said: “Hayi, sonwabile nyana [We are very happy]”. Although this great maize yield may mean a lot to people like him, little effect will be felt by the rest of country.

Given the Eastern Cape’s small contribution to South Africa’s maize production (at 0.78%, according to National Crop Estimate Committee figures), its improved yields won’t be meaningful to national food security. Still, subsistence maize production contributes to food security in the province.

According to Trade and Industry Policy Strategies (Tips), an independent economic research institution, “more than 37% of the population engage in a form of economic activity related to farming”. In 2009, a Tips report suggested the Eastern Cape produce 1.2-million tonnes of maize a year, thus increasing its national contribution to 8%. This is achievable. Between 1990 and 2014, production rose by 79%; the area planted decreased by 44%. Increased production was a result of improved agriculture practices and technological improvements, and to organised agriculture’s involvement.

 

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