File picture: Leon Lestrade/ANA
JOHANNESBURG - The South African agricultural economy grew by 17.7percent in 2017, following an extended contraction caused by the El Niño-induced drought in 2015 and 2016, which resulted in failed crops and livestock deaths. 

The Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) said the growth was as a result of strong output in sub-sectors, including field crops, livestock and horticulture, among others. 

It said the country’s agricultural exports grew past the $10 billion (R119bn) mark for the first time, rising 15percent year-on-year. The surge was boosted by growth in exports of, among others, edible fruits, beverages, spirits, and vegetables. 

This led to agricultural gross domestic product growth of 37.5percent quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2017, following 41.1percent quarter-on-quarter growth in the third quarter. 

This was against Agbiz expectations of a moderate growth pace at levels below 20percent quarter-on-quarter. Agbiz warned, however, that the agricultural sector could slow in performance in 2018. 

- BUSINESS REPORT