South African agricultural activities range from intensive crop production and mixed farming in winter rainfall and high summer rainfall areas, to cattle and sheep ranching in the more arid regions.
Maize is most widely grown, followed by soya beans, wheat, sunflower and sugarcane. It has a dual agricultural economy, with a well-developed commercial farming industry on the one hand, and on the other a combination of small scale, communal and subsistence farming.
Declining farming profitability and water scarcity has left South Africa with less than two-thirds of the number of farms it had in the early 1990s.
South Africa boasts around 40 000 commercial farming units which collectively contribute up to 12% of the country’s GDP if the entire value chain of agriculture is taken into account. The gross income from agricultural production is R215 billion per year – of this the poultry meat industry makes the largest contribution, R33 billion – followed by maize with R27 billion and red meat with R24 billion. (Euro 1 equals approximately R15).