Why Agrochemicals are important for Agriculture in South Africa?

Posted in Agriculture by Adolf on Sep 22,2021 1916

Besides tourism, the agriculture sector in South Africa plays a vital role in providing employment and food security through the basic harvests that feed the people each day. In fact, commercial farming is considered as the backbone of the country’s agricultural economy. Ranging from warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters, South Africa’s climate allows abundant farming opportunities. Also, the agricultural sector of the country is one of the most diverse, which produces a variety of nuts and grains, fruits and vegetables, sugar, citrus, wine, beef and poultry.

South Africa is a vast country in terms of land area. However, there is very little land available for agricultural usage. Hence, the need of improving the efficiency of production has been driving the market demand for agrochemicals. Further, with economic improvement, farmers have become more aware of the necessity of agrochemicals to the land. Integrated farming practices, if adopted, may further create an opportunity for the market. 

Sustaining the Agricultural Sector with Agrochemicals

The main focus of the agricultural sector is to increase the productivity and food security in the country. However, the country’s agricultural productivity is quite fluctuating over the years, as compared to neighbouring regional economies. Cereal crops especially maize has contributed highest in the overall demand for agrochemicals as per studies.

Maximum demand for agrochemical products such as pesticides and fertilizers are from cereal crop growers in the country. The major pesticides used in cereal crops are Glyphosate, 2.4D, and Metolachor. The use of agrochemicals is the highest for the cereals and grains segment as soil nutrient deficiencies can cause decreased yield and less bioavailable nutrients in crops such as rice. Various essential mineral supplementations through fertilizers increases rice crop yield and nutrient content in harvested grains. Thus, due to growing population, increasing focus on food security, increased investment in research and development, increase in need to enhance the land productivity and increase in farming income the market studied is anticipated to grow during the forecast period.

The South Africa Agrochemical Market was valued at US$ 1127.8 million in 2020 and is projected to register a CAGR of 3.9% during the forecast period (2021-2026). However, the recent outbreak of coronavirus has affected the production and supply of agrochemicals in the country. Initially farmers have expected good productivity due to plenty of rains. The sudden demand for chemicals from thousands of farmers unfortunately coincided with major international importation issues caused by COVID-19. In terms of supply, a short-term shortage of migrant labourers amidst distribution bottlenecks created a wide gap between the number of workers required for the production of Agrochemicals and the ones available. Thus, the global pandemic has caused a negative impact on the market.

Embracing Bio Based Agrochemicals

Being essentially less harmful compared to regular synthetic pesticides, bio-pesticides typically affect only the target pest and other organisms that are closely related to it, therefore, bio-pesticides are gaining popularity. According to FAO, the consumption of fertilizers in South Africa has been increasing from 47 Kg per hectare in 2005 to 60 Kg per hectare in 2016.The more consumption of chemical fertilizers than recommended levels over the years has led to soil acidification, thus, more bio fertilizers are needed for correcting the PH value of the soil.

Production need to be increased on low fertile soil that needs high amount of bio fertilizers. This enhances the nutrient availability of crop plants by processes like fixing atmosphere N or dissolving P present in the soil, thus, imparting better health to crops and soil, thereby, enhancing crop yields, which, in turn, is anticipated to drive the bio-fertilizer market during the forecast period.

The commercial farming sector produces more than 95% of the total marketed agricultural output. For instance, maize accounts for 41% of total fertilizer application whereas sugar cane accounts for 18% that can be replaced by bio-fertilizers that increase the sugarcane yield by 20-30 metric ton per hectare as compared to chemical fertilizers, which yield 60 metric ton per hectare as it helps to solubilize phosphorus and potassium, thus, making it easier for nutrient absorption. Therefore, the rise in demand for bio-based chemicals such as bio-fertilizers is anticipated to drive the market significantly during the forecast period.

South Africa Agrochemicals Market is highly competitive with the presence of many international and domestic players operating in the market. Prominent players in the fertilizers market are Sasol Limited, International ASA, OCP and K+SG, while companies such as Bayer Cropscience AG, BASF SE and UPL Limited are some notable players in the pesticides market.

South Africa is one of the major countries for agriculture in Africa. The South African agrochemical market is import-dependent. Within the fertilizer category, all the potassic fertilizers consumed are imported, and 60%-70% of the nitrogenous fertilizers are imported. The remaining fertilizers are produced domestically.

However, the cost of agrochemicals is not always affordable to the farmers belonging to lower economic classes, and this is becoming a major constraint to the demand for fertilizers in the country. Along with that, there is a need to strengthen the government’s involvement in popularizing the consumption of agrochemicals for better productivity of agricultural lands.

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