Farming In South Africa

South Africa has a dual agricultural economy, with both well-developed commercial farming and more subsistence-based production in the deep rural areas.

Covering 1.2-million square kilometers of land, South Africa is one-eighth the size of the United States and has seven climatic regions, from Mediterranean to subtropical to semi-desert.

This biodiversity, together with a coastline 3 000 kilometers long and served by eight commercial ports, favors the cultivation of a highly diverse range of marine and agricultural products, from deciduous, citrus and subtropical fruit to grain, wool, cut flowers, livestock, and game.

While 12% of South Africa’s land can be used for crop production, only 22% of this is high-potential arable land. The greatest limitation is the availability of water, with uneven and unreliable rainfall. Around 1.3-million hectares are under irrigation, and around 50% of South Africa’s water is used for agriculture.

Agricultural activities range from intensive crop production and mixed farming in winter rainfall and high summer rainfall areas to cattle ranching in the bushveld and sheep farming in the arid regions. Maize is most widely grown, followed by wheat, sugarcane, and sunflowers. Citrus and deciduous fruits are exported, as are locally produced wines and flowers.

South Africa is not only self-sufficient in virtually all major agricultural products but is also a net food exporter. It is also the leading exporter of protea cut flowers, which account for more than half of protease sold on the world market.

Other important export groups are wine, citrus, maize, grapes, sugar, apples, pears and quinces. Important export products include agro-processing products, such as underrated ethyl alcohol and hides and skins.

Fruit and vegetables

South Africa’s fruit and vegetable sector rank among the best in the world. The subtropical Lowveld fruit farming includes an abundance of citrus and much other subtropical fruits such as mangoes, marulas, avocados, litchis, bananas, paw-paws, guavas, granadillas, as well as paprika, pepper dews, coffee, tea and deciduous fruit. Nelspruit / Mbombela is the second-largest citrus producing area in South Africa (the Cape being the first) and is responsible for one-third of the country’s orange exports.


As many people will already know, South Africa is famous for its extensive production of wines. It is actually the ninth largest wine producer in the world and climbing fast. Over 110 000ha of land are currently under cultivation, with over 300-million vines. A large number of wine producers employ over 60 000 people within the industry. Most visitors to our country will try to find the time to tour the wine estates of the Western Cape. Coupling fantastic wine with culinary art.


The Macadamia nut industry is the fastest-growing tree crop industry in South Africa and the country is ranked as a top producer in the world today. Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal produces virtually all of Southern Africa’s macadamia and pecan nuts. Nut produce includes traditional roasted nuts, nut butter, nougats, oils, pesto, and pâtés.


The South African Sugar Industry is a world leader in the production of high-quality sugar. The diverse industry combines sugar cane cultivation with the industrial factory production of raw and refined sugar, syrups and specialized sugars, and a range of by-products. Sugar cane flourishes under irrigation in the southern parts of Mpumalanga and in Kwa Zulu Natal. The sugar industry is an important provider of jobs in the rural areas.


Much of South Africa’s development in the forestry sector has been accelerated by the utilization of forestry reserves. The Mpumalanga Lowveld escarpment is the primary commercial forest area in South Africa and accounts for a large proportion of South African commercial forestry. Commercial forests occur along the province’s borders with Swaziland in the south, and the Kruger National Park in the north-east, with the area around Sabie in the north being regarded as the center of forestry.


Mpumalanga one of the main avo producing areas within South Africa. Numerous avocado cultivars, such as Fuerte, Hass, Ryan, Pinkerton and Edranol, are available at different times of the year. Nearly half of the avocado production is exported, with international quality acclaim achieved by scientific production methods and excellent post-harvest technology. Europe is the main importer of avocados and most products found there in summer are of South Africa origin.