The National Treasury’s downgraded growth forecast in the Medium-term Budget Policy statement, coming on the heels of South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey, paints a bleak picture. Statistics South Africa reported that the unemployment rate – at 29.1 percent – is now at the highest level since the global economic downturn in 2008. These figures don't bode well for the National Treasury’s economic strategy, which aims to create one million jobs and grow the economy by 2 to 3 percent over the next decade.
Yet there is some light amid the economic doom and gloom. Agricultural jobs increased this quarter by 38 000. This is no doubt why Treasury's Economic Strategy paper outlines the importance of the agriculture sector in promoting labour-intensive growth. As the Treasury's paper states: “A growing agricultural sector can help address our challenges of unemployment and low growth, countering rural poverty.”
The citrus industry surely has a role as a job creator. South Africa is now the second-largest global exporter of citrus fruit, bringing R20 billion into the country and supporting 120 000 jobs. Importantly, rural areas are seeing real benefits to investments made in supporting developing growers. If the citrus industry were to expand its exports by just 25 percent, it alone would be able provide the R6bn increase in exports that the Treasury seeks.
[ R1 = €0.061 ]