The dominant message about SA’s agriculture in the past few months has been of a thriving sector, having grown by 13.4% year on year in 2020 and expected to grow a further 7.6% in 2021. The large harvests of 2020 improved farmers’ finances and allowed some to replace old machinery. Tractor and combine harvester sales expanded by double digits in many months after mid-2020.

Yet, this is not a complete picture of the financial conditions in this sector. Rising input costs — higher feed prices for livestock and poultry and higher fuel, fertiliser and agrochemical costs for those in field crops and horticulture — are worth highlighting...

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