It has been 25 years since the dawn of democracy and the general mood in the country is pessimistic owing to poor economic fortunes and elevated joblessness, among other long-standing challenges. As an agricultural economist, it is not unusual to hear statements that suggest SA’s agricultural sector is in bad shape compared to the past few years because of uncertainties over land reform policy, water rights, biosecurity risks and the changing climate, all of which make agriculture increasingly risky.

While all these points have some validity, it is important that we never lose sight of the progress SA’s agricultural sector has made since 1994. Total agricultural output — field crops, livestock and horticulture — has nearly doubled over the past 25 years. The gross value of the sector has increased nine-fold since 1994 and was about R277bn in 2018, according to data from the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

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