Economy, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
pastoral farming, bantustans, purse seine, snoek, pelagic fish
The relative contribution of agriculture, forestry, and fishing to GDP has steadily declined and was 3 percent in 2000, but these industries employ more than 1 million people and support many more in the subsistence sector. About one-third of agricultural production is exported. Only 12 percent of South Africa’s land area is cultivated, and most of the rest is suitable only for pastoral farming. The principal field crops are maize (corn), wheat, sugarcane, and hay. The major horticultural crops are fruit, including citrus fruit and grapes (for winemaking), and vegetables, including potatoes. Dressed poultry and eggs head the list of livestock products, followed by slaughtered cattle and calves, and fresh milk. Maize, which accounts for 16 percent of total agricultural output, is the staple food of most black South Africans. A significant proportion of poultry and cattle production is also subsistence in nature.
Under apartheid blacks were restricted to the ten bantustans, which made up only 13 percent of the country’s total area. Farming in these areas is primarily for subsistence, and traditional land tenure systems vest land in the chiefs or headmen, who allocate small plots to individual farmers. Marketing crops is largely local because of poor infrastructure. Commercial agriculture remains overwhelmingly in white hands, using the labor of about 1.2 million black farm workers. The government has launched a land reform program that promises restitution or compensation to those displaced from their land since 1913, when the Natives Land Act restricting black ownership was passed.
Although South Africa has little native forest, it has developed one of the largest forestry industries in the world based on pine, eucalyptus, and wattle plantations. Commercial forests cover 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres), or 1 percent of the land area, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces. Almost one-third of the plantations are owned by the government. The timber and wood products industry employs more than 200,000 people and provides 90 percent of South Africa’s timber requirements and all the country’s pulp and paper needs.
The commercial fishing industry employs about 28,000 people. Over 90 percent of the output comes from waters off the west coast, which are productive because of the cold Benguela Current. Demersal fish, or fish that stay close to the bottom of the ocean, account for half the total, with hake being the most common catch; pelagic fish, especially anchovies and pilchards, account for about a quarter of the total; fish caught by line include snoek, cob, silverfish, and yellowtail. Rock lobsters are also caught, mainly for export. In terms of volume, multispecies shoal fishing by purse seine (a surface net that encircles and entraps entire shoals of fish) is the most important method used, followed by bottom and mid-water trawling of demersal fish.
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