• South African farmers believe Russia has great potential in the field of agriculture and are interested in sharing experience with the country, Omri van Zyl, the executive director of federation of South African agricultural organisations AgriSa, told Sputnik. 

  • In South Africa 7.4 million people are reported to be suffering from hunger. One wonders how this is possible, as South Africa is among the top 10 most food-secure countries in Africa. 

  • The growing need to boost rural economic activity through agricultural development has re-introduced the discussion on the subdivision of land to create as many small farms as possible that will benefit communities. 

  • In less than eight years, white sharks in South Africa have all but disappeared from their historical hotspots in False Bay and Gansbaai, on the Western Cape coast. These areas were once known as the “white shark capital of the world” and were home to a flourishing ecotourism industry. One possible explanation for this change would be a declining white shark population.

    We are part of an international research team with expertise in shark ecology, genetics, fisheries and conservation, researching sharks for more than 20 years. This has included tagging sharks and monitoring their activities in the area.

    We have published numerous papers on the species. These have included research into conservation plans for sharks in South Africa, white shark cage diving, and the importance of coastal reef habitats for white sharks.

    Our most recent tracking data on white sharks tells a worrying story: 18 of 21 white sharks tagged since 2019 with internal 10-year transmitters in Mossel Bay by the Oceans Research Institute have disappeared. This represents the loss of nearly 90% of the tracked white sharks in less than four years. They have not been detected moving to the Eastern Cape or elsewhere: they vanished.

    Furthermore, nowadays, white sharks larger than 4 metres in length, the big breeders, are rarely sighted. Combined with the known low genetic diversity of this population, it is an indication that the white shark population is likely not stable in South Africa.

    Based on this, we urge the South African government to take a precautionary approach to white shark conservation. Otherwise, South Africa could go down in history not only as the first country to protect white sharks, but also the first country to knowingly lose its white sharks.

      Great white vanishing act: where have South Africa's famous sharks gone?

    What’s known
    As far back as 2011, between 500 and 1,000 individual white sharks were estimated to be left in South Africa. Today, we barely see any larger white sharks. This in itself is a sign of a population not doing well, because the fewer adult sharks there are, the greater the decline will be.

    Although white sharks have been a protected species since 1991, large numbers are legally killed every year by shark nets and drumlines (anchored hooks with large baits) operated by the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board. This is based on an outdated 70-year-old idea that sharks should be culled to reduce the chances of encounters with humans.

    Between 1978 and 2018, drumlines and shark nets captured 1,317 white sharks, of which 1,108 died. So, on average, 28 white sharks were killed every single year for the last 40 years.

    We have estimated that even if tens of white sharks were killed per year, this would drive the white shark population into decline.

    White sharks have also been affected by the demersal shark longline fishery. Boats use fishing lines fitted with thousands of hooks that can be kilometres long. The fishery is permitted to target and kill endangered and critically endangered small sharks. But as the smaller sharks get caught on the lines, so do larger predators chasing them, including white sharks.

    This fishery is conservatively estimated to have killed an average of 40 white sharks a year, mainly from 2008 to 2019. Photographer Oliver Godfrey observed three white sharks being caught and killed by this fishery while he was on one of their boats. He confirmed dead white sharks were discarded at sea and not reported to authorities. Three white sharks killed in 10 weeks by one vessel equates to 40 white sharks killed by an average of 4 vessels operating for only 3 weeks per month, 10 months of a year (all conservative figures).

    Nevertheless, South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment has no official records of any of those because it relies only on the records supplied by the same fishery. The lack of records should raise concerns within the department as it knows that during a test run of this fishery, its scientists set three longlines, caught two white sharks and killed one.

    What’s in dispute
    A recent study claimed that the population of white sharks in South Africa was stable. The study suggested that the sharks had simply relocated eastward, fleeing from a pair of shark-eating orcas. According to the authors of the study, the stability of the white shark population was “encouraging” and “reassuring”.

    But our review of that study found that their results could not demonstrate a stable white shark population, nor that the sharks had relocated. Our analysis found several discrepancies between the results and conclusions.

    The main discrepancies included the fact that the declines of white sharks in the Western Cape began before the appearance of the shark-eating orcas in 2015 as reported. And at present there is no evidence of any location with the same large numbers of white shark comparable to the numbers found 10-15 years ago in the Western Cape. If the sharks had only relocated, their numbers should be found elsewhere.

    There have been only eight confirmed white shark deaths by orcas since 2017 but possibly a few more unrecorded. Nevertheless, the permitted nets, drumline and longline fishery have together probably been responsible for at least eight times more white shark deaths, every single year.

    Next steps
    South Africa is still permitting unsustainable shark fishing operations in its waters. This ought to stop.

    We also advocate for a discussion on new approaches to bather safety that don’t kill sharks, as also advocated in Australia. Tethered drones, shark spotters

    , and “smart drumlines” that send alerts to quick response teams when sharks are caught are among available technologies to protect swimmers and surfers without culling sharks.

  • The debate about the expropriation of white-owned land without compensation is about much more than the method of land reform.

  • October 16 is World Food Day and perhaps the most fitting thing to do would be to boast about South Africa’s progress in terms of food security, having been ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 Global Food Security Index the top in Africa. 

  • This April the dam levels in the Western Cape slumped to a low of just 18% and South Africans were bracing themselves for Day Zero.

  • Minimum wage policies are typically aimed at reducing poverty. Yet there is little direct evidence of this effect, especially in developing countries. And none for South Africa.

    In a recent paper, we consider the income, employment and poverty effects of the largest minimum wage increase South Africa has ever seen. In 2013 the agricultural minimum wage increased by about 50%, affecting nearly all workers in the sector.

    South Africa’s agricultural sector is a low-wage industry contributing about 2% of GDP. Over the last four decades the sector has shed jobs, and relied increasingly on casual labour. Farmworkers have among the lowest average wages in the country, with poor living and working conditions. While farmworkers account for less than 5% of all employment, they comprise about half of employment in rural formal areas.

    The agricultural minimum wage was first introduced in 2003, and has been adjusted annually in line with inflation. In November 2012 in the Western Cape province, worker protests quickly spread, with the demand for a wage of R150 a day. South Africa’s labour minister compromised by increasing the minimum wage from R69 to R105 a day in March 2013 (from $7.15 to $10.88 in 2013).

    Such a large increase might have been expected to lead to job losses, with devastating consequences. This is what employers warned at the time – that the higher wages would need to come from existing profit margins.

    But there weren’t in fact big job losses. And we found that household income and poverty rates strongly benefited in the short run. At the same time, our results also indicated low minimum wage compliance among the lowest paid workers – employers did not comply with the new minimum wage. This undermines the policy.

    It may also have lessened its negative effects because employers who didn’t comply may have been the employers with the lowest profit margins. If they had complied, they might have had to fire a lot of workers.

    Our study provides reason for optimism about the effects of minimum wage policies on poverty, while keeping in mind the complex relationship of these policies with compliance and institutional enforcement.

    The 2013 hike

    In our paper we document the implementation of the new minimum wage.

    Average hourly wages increased sharply from around R7.50 in 2012 to R9.70 in 2013 after the minimum wage implementation, which shows the policy had a clear impact on workers’ wages.

    However, agricultural employment declined over the same period. Despite the employment loss, poverty dropped substantially, and the total wage payments to workers (the wage bill) rose.

    Nevertheless, these trends may not reflect causal effects of the minimum wage. This is because there are a number of features of agriculture that complicate the story.

    Firstly, an important feature of agriculture is the volatility of economic and agricultural conditions, including sensitivity to weather. Table 1 shows that much of the employment decline between 2012 and 2013 appears to be driven by an unusual spike in employment in 2012, perhaps reflecting such volatility.

    Secondly, while average wages increased, they were still well below the new minimum wage. Research done in 2012 documented low compliance with minimum wages in South Africa, especially in the agricultural sector.

    Thirdly, the average change in the poverty rate (the proportion of people who are poor) depends on who is classified as poor. For example, there was a decrease of only 4 percentage points in the poverty rate when classifying those with monthly income below R1,042 (US$110 in 2013) as poor (compared to a decrease of 10 percentage points when using a higher amount).

    Overall, despite the large increase in average hourly wages and total wage bill presented in Table 1, these features of the agricultural sector make causal claims tricky.

     The Effect Of Higher Wages On Production Cost And Mechanization:

    Measuring the causal effect

    To better understand the effects of the new minimum wage, we used data from the Quarterly Labour Force Surveys, which is the official source of labour market data.

    We tracked a representative rotating panel of about a thousand workers who were paid below the new minimum wage just before the policy was implemented, and compared their income and employment to just after.

    A worker who used to be paid a lot less than the new minimum wage would need to be paid a lot more for the employer to be compliant with the new minimum wage. We assessed the extent to which the changes in incomes and employment coincided with the gap between a worker’s previous wage and the new minimum wage.

    On average across all workers, we estimated that the minimum wage increased hourly wages by 5.6%, increased the chance that a worker stayed employed, increased household income by about 6.3%, and decreased the poverty rate.

    However, these effects varied by how much workers were paid before the new minimum wage. Workers paid just below the new minimum had the biggest wage gains, while, counterintuitively, those who were initially the lowest paid workers had the smallest wage gains.

    These lower-paid workers on average had the most positive employment effects though, such that their wage and employment effects offset each other. That is, lower paid workers were more likely to keep their jobs. Together then, workers across different levels of income had similarly large positive effects on household income and poverty.

    Where this leaves the debate

    Small wage gains for the lowest-paid workers means that minimum wage compliance was lowest where it mattered the most.

    Why could this have happened?

    One possibility is what economists call “endogenous compliance”, which would reduce unemployment effects. Workers, bosses, and enforcement authorities may “turn a blind eye” to minimum wage violations when they’re worried that strict enforcement would cause unemployment.

    Consistent with this, we found much weaker compliance in small firms, where we would otherwise expect the most negative effects on employment.

    Another explanation is that the lowest paid workers were the workers least able to force employers to comply, and these employers were more likely to keep them employed as a result.

    Overall then, the effects of the minimum wage were strongly positive. The biggest limitation of our study is that we considered only the short run. And while we found similar effects two quarters out, we left estimates of medium and longer run adjustments to future work.

    These positive short-run effects of such a large policy change provide some optimism that there is institutional space to substantially improve the lives of poorly paid workers, while being cognisant of those left behind in the process.

  • A large share of the 2017/18 maize crop has already been delivered to commercial silos, hence the weekly producer deliveries have slowed in the recent weeks. 

  • How the document came into circulation is at present still unclear, and as far as can be established it is a South African Police Service internal document not intended for public dissemination.

  • On Wednesday a draft document billed as an amendment to the Firearms Control Act was released. GOSA has perused the document and are absolutely outraged at this development.

  • One key factor that shaped South Africa’s grain and oilseed price performance this week was the recovery of the rand against the US dollar.

  • South Africa’s pet food industry has in recent months defied constrained economic growth, a volatile local currency, declining but stable grains sector and muted political uncertainty to post growth and even attract investment from key manufacturers in the country.

  • Water has ranked in the top five risks for seven consecutive years in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report. And if you look at the headline threats to humanity  and the planet over the next decade, as pinpointed by 1,000 experts, all but one are linked to water.

  • The World Bank’s latest annual report on poverty and shared prosperity has an unsurprisingly positive message that only 10% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty in 2015, which is the most recent year that available data allows for global poverty estimates to be made.

  • Banks are worried that South Africa is taking a wrong turn with laws being considered by the nation’s parliament that could leave the economy worse off.

  • As South Africa's passionate debate over land redistribution grows, one city outside Johannesburg is preparing what the mayor calls a "test case" for the nation — the seizure of hundreds of acres of land from private owners, without paying for it, to build low-cost housing.

  • South African farmers are forecast to plant 7% more hectares of maize in 2018/2019 compared with the current season in anticipation of improved weather, a Reuters poll of four analysts showed on Friday.

  • Crime in South Africa and particularly farm murders is now internationalised. Comments emanate from far and wide. Social media has put paid to the ANC’s hopes that their shenanigans will go unnoticed, and while T-shirts and food hampers may sway their hapless followers, the world out there knows what’s going on. It took some time, but the penny has finally dropped.

  • In Turkey the harvest of apples is in full swing. Turkish company Arona is focusing mostly on the Eastern markets, but nobody seems safe from the huge Polish supply. Although the quality of the apples is great, Polish prices could ruin the Turkish apple party.