Last year was a challenging one for the South African agricultural sector, characterised by an El Niño-induced drought. Fortunately, this weather event appears to have passed and there is a promising production outlook for 2017. During the December holidays, I took an agricultural tour of the Eastern Cape, from the northern areas of the province — driving from Aliwal North, passing the Magwa tea plantation on the outskirts of Lusikisiki to the sugarcane fields in Bizana in the Alfred Nzo district. The vegetation across the province painted a mixed picture. The northern areas remained dry, posing a challenge to farmers. Meanwhile, the central and southern regions were reasonably green, almost typifying the normal summer vegetation. The condition of field crops and veld across many towns was favourable. The Eastern Cape is not renowned for its agricultural vibrancy. In fact, it is commonly cited as one of the provinces with large underutilised tracts of land under communal tenure, as ...

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