Q1 GDP beats expectations – Agriculture retreats on seasonality factors

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released the quarter one (Q1) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for 2021, showing that the economy accelerated at an annualised rate of 4,6% (1,1% quarterly). This is better than the 2,5%-3% expected by many economists.

 Eight industries recorded positive growth in the first three months of the year, with the star performers being finance, mining and trade industries, achieving upticks of 7,%, 18,1%, and 6,2%, respectively.

The recent higher commodity prices and increasing global demand gave a good indication before the release that recovery from Covid-19 related impacts could be more pronounced than initially anticipated. Worth noting, and further adding impetus to the positive GDP number, was household consumption that jumped 4,7% in the same period under review. This comes a week after the country’s unemployment rate rose to a record 32,6%.

 Taking a look at the agricultural sector, agricultural GDP shrunk 3,2% and contributed -0,1% to GDP growth. This decrease was attributed mainly to the lower production of field crops and animal products. This was to be expected as the first quarter of the year is generally quiet on activity. A great deal of agricultural GDP is concentrated in field crops. The planting of summer crops, planting takes place after the first rains of the season, which is around October. Planting normally continues until January, with harvesting kicking off in May (April for early harvest).

 Similarly, winter crops are planted mainly in the second quarter of the year and crops are limited in size compared to the summer crop. Harvesting usually occurs in the third and fourth quarters of the year. These seasonality factors underpin the lower GDP contribution.  The second quarter should see a rebound, particularly anchored on the positive yield estimates for summer crops.

 Animal production has also been negatively affected by the continuing drought in some pockets of the country and diseases in some other parts.  However, as herd rebuilding continues, a positive outcome can be expected during the latter part of the year.


Kulani Siweya

Agri SA Agricultural economist

(C) 084 018 6019

 Nicol Jansen

Chair of Agri SA’s Centre of Excellence: Economics

(C) 082 948 2629