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Labour-related structural trends in South African maize production


  • Van Zyl, J.
  • Vink, N.
  • Fenyes, T. I.


The substitution of capital goods, including new technology, for land and labour has played an important role and has influenced the structure of Sout African agriculture. Farm labour-related trends in the summer rainfall grain-producing area of South Africa are considered. The amount of labour used, the remuneration of labour, the substitution of capital for labour and productivity trends are analyzed. Growth rates were obtained by fitting exponential functions with time as independent variable. The decline in the number of farm employees per 1000 hectares under cultivation since 1970 probably resulted from mechanization and thus capital- labour substitution in maize production, especially in harvesting. Tax concessions on new capital improvements, the subsidization of agriculture in general and the increasing rate of urbanization contributed to this trend. The scarcity of capital relative to unskilled labour, which has been reinforced by policy measures favouring capital intensity (capital formation has increased by 4.0% per annum between 1950 and 1980, compared with an increase of 0. 71% per annum in the number of farm employees in the same period); this implies that corrective policy changes are required to improve the present distorted situation. This will enable the commercial agricultural sector of South Africa to play a more meaningful role in the socio-economic development of the whole subcontinent.
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Suggested Citation

  • Van Zyl, J. & Vink, N. & Fenyes, T. I., 1987. "Labour-related structural trends in South African maize production," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 1(3), pages 241-258, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agecon:v:1:y:1987:i:3:p:241-258

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    Cited by:

    1. Greyling, Jan C. & Vink, Nick & Mbaya, Edward, 2015. "South Africa’S Agricultural Sector Twenty Years After Democracy (1994 To 2013)," Professional Agricultural Workers Journal (PAWJ), Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, vol. 3(1).
    2. Kirsten, Johann F. & van Zyl, Johan, 1998. "Defining Small-Scale Farmers In The South African Context," Agrekon, Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), vol. 37(4), December.
    3. Liebenberg, Frikkie & Pardey, Philip G., 2012. "A long-run view of South African agricultural production and productivity," African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, African Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 7(1), October.
    4. Hoop, Daniel & Mack, Gabriele & Mann, Stefan & Schmid, Dierk, 2014. "On the dynamics of agricultural labour input and their impact on productivity and income: an empirical study of Swiss family farms," International Journal of Agricultural Management, Institute of Agricultural Management;International Farm Management Association, vol. 3(4), July.
    5. Hoop, Daniel & Mack, Gabriele & Mann, Stefan & Schmid, Dierk, 2013. "Zur Dynamik unterschiedlicher Institutionalisierungsformen landwirtschaftlicher Arbeit - Eine empirische Untersuchung Schweizer Familienbetriebe," 53rd Annual Conference, Berlin, Germany, September 25-27, 2013 156105, German Association of Agricultural Economists (GEWISOLA).
    6. Vink, N. & Kirsten, J.F., 1999. "A Descriptive Analysis Of Employment Trends In South African Agriculture," Agrekon, Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), vol. 38(2), June.
    7. van Zyl, Johan & Binswanger, Hans & Thirtle, Colin, 1995. "The relationship between farm size and efficiency in South African agriculture," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1548, The World Bank.
    8. Schimmelpfennig, David & Thirtle, Colin & van Zyl, Johan & Arnade, Carlos & Khatri, Yougesh, 2000. "Short and long-run returns to agricultural R&D in South Africa, or will the real rate of return please stand up?," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 23(1), pages 1-15, June.
    9. Breitenbach, Marthinus C. & Fenyes, Tamas I., 2000. "Maize and wheat production trends in South Africa in a deregulated environment," Agrekon, Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), vol. 39(3), September.
    10. Andreas Exenberger & Andreas Pondorfer, 2011. "Rain, temperature and agricultural production: The impact of climate change in Sub-Sahara Africa, 1961-2009," Working Papers 2011-26, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.

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