How to start farming with R1 million
Farmer's Weekly|October 29, 2021
Is it possible to start a farming operation in South Africa in 2021 for less than R1 million? A number of experts discussed the start-up potential of layers, broilers, pigs, vegetables and lucerne with Susan Marais.
Susan Marais

FAST FACTS

  • Biosecurity and pricey genetic material make a piggery a difficult start-up for small-scale producers.
  • It’s best to first find a market for your product before beginning production. If you cannot sell it, your farming operation will not be viable.
  • With layer hens, farmers can start earning a monthly income within a very short time.

Could a recently retrenched individual who has always dreamt of farming take R1 million from his or her pension savings and start a farming operation in South Africa’s current economic climate? The answer is yes, no, and maybe.

In this case, the devil truly lies in the detail. For this hypothetical farm, Farmer’s Weekly limited the scope to pig, poultry (both layers and broilers), vegetables and lucerne. While experts quickly dismissed some of these hypothetical farms, others just might be possible.

A few assumptions are necessary. The first is that the farm is in Gauteng, close to a market. The second is that the potential farmer does not own land and has no political means of obtaining land.

According to Michael Corbett, FNB’s head of agriculture in Gauteng, leasing land would probably be the best bet. After all, there is a difference between being a farmer and being a landowner.

“A quick Internet search indicates that we could possibly find land to lease for between R10 000 and R12 000 a month. Depending on size and infrastructure, this could work for a new farmer.”

Agricultural economist and independent consultant Jan de Jong agrees with Corbett.

“Leasing does make sense, because you’ll be able to free up capital. Unfortunately, it does have the downside of not having security. That’s a risk that the farmer would have to manage.”

Johann Kotzé, agricultural economist and CEO of the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation, says that when leasing land it is important to keep infrastructure to a bare minimum, as it will not necessarily benefit one’s farming operation to build infrastructure on another person’s land.

De Jong stresses that the potential farmer has to understand the crucial importance of profit.

“You are not a developing farmer; you are a small commercial farmer. When looking at these hypothetical farms, keep profit in mind. This should always be your motive. Even if you decide to exchange your cabbages for eggs, or vice versa, a transaction is still taking place.”

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