Oranges and Labourers: The Potential for Job Creation in the Citrus Sub-sector of South Africa

Rural employment is a key policy issue in South Africa, yet the National Development Plan (NDP) of 2012 suggests that one million jobs can be created in agricultural production, processing and related activities. The plan suggests that more jobs can be created by increased investment in water and irrigation infrastructure, linking small scale farmers with markets, creating tenure security for farmers in communal areas, innovative financing and joint ventures. In the plan, a matrix depicting “agricultural growth and employment potential” shows that citrus, nuts, subtropical and deciduous fruit and vegetables demonstrate potential for both high growth and labour intensity. This Working Paper focuses on the potential for job creation in the citrus sub-sector, which is believed to be one of the biggest employers in agriculture as well as one of the sub-sectors with the biggest potential for job creation due to the dynamic nature of its expansion. Ongoing research shows that jobs can indeed be created through the expansion of orchards in the large-scale commercial sector and by establishing orchards on land designated for production by new black farmers, as well as in citrus nurseries, packing sheds and in processing. However, expansion of production is constrained by the availability of water, access to capital to buy land and establish orchards and the struggle to enhance market access in a global environment of proliferating non-tariff barriers and competitive trade negotiations. Furthermore, the recent introduction of a National Minimum Wage (NMW) at a higher level than the sectoral determination for agriculture may lead to efforts to rationalise the present workforce, rather than creating jobs, whereas accumulation strategies of commercial farmers are often aimed at mechanisation, reorganisation and casualisation in order to employ fewer workers.