As KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa's best watered province; it has a larger area of high quality agricultural land than any other province, and it is the national leader in several agricultural products. The Midlands area between Pietermaritzburg and the Drakensberg is the heart of this high quality agricultural area, another area of importance is the North Coast region. Despite the fact that KwaZulu-Natal covers such a small portion of South Africa's land area, a significant percentage of the country's small-scale farmers are based here. Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal is extremely diverse and relates to the patterns of its topography. Most of the world's agricultural activities can be practiced in the region. Due to the good reliable rainfall and fertile soils, the agricultural sector has become very productive, and is known for its specialist capability in several types of farming.  The Province has a total of 6.5 million hectares of land for farming purposes of which 82% is suitable for extensive livestock production and 18% is arable land.

The agricultural sector is mainly focused on the following:
Crops: Sugar, Maize
Horticulture: Sub-tropical fruits especially Pineapples and Bananas, Cashew nuts, Potatoes, Vegetables.
Forestry: SA Pine, Saligna, Black Wattle, Eucalyptus, Poplar.
Animal Husbandry: Beef, Sheep (mutton and wool), Pigs, Poultry.

Agriculture is a labour-intensive sector, which is especially relevant in a provincial context of high unemployment. Attempts are being made to boost the Province’s enormous potential in agriculture into competitive advantage by:

  • Utilising all 590 bio-resource regions to produce vegetables, fruit and meat products for export.
  • Reducing reliance on imported foods and bringing down food prices
  • Moving subsistence farmers upwards into first economy.
 In line with this thrust, the identification of crops and the creation of opportunities for SMME agribusiness prospects are of importance.   Other proposed projects include: - honey farming, the growing of cut flowers, the production of essential oils for on-sale into the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics markets, and the cultivation of plants that can be marketed as indigenous medicines. Some studies show high value/ low mass floriculture and horticulture for export are likely to take the lead in the future. The potential for sugar cane to be used as biofuel is also of importance to entrepreneurs.

Animal husbandry

KwaZulu-Natal is one of the main livestock farming areas in South Africa. The province has a total of 6,5 million hectares of land for farming purposes of which 82 percent is suitable for extensive livestock production and 18 percent is arable land.

Dairy farming

Dairy farming is an important sector. The four major dairy breeds in South Africa are the Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire. Herd sizes vary by farm type; dairy cattle herd sizes vary between less than 50 to between 100 and 500. Orange Grove Dairy based in Dundee has the largest Jersey stud herd in the country

Orange Grove currently delivers a range of over 200 dairy products across the province – from Kosi Bay to Kokstad and every major cen­tre in between, including Richards Bay, Empan­geni, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, as well as inland towns ranging from Ulundi and Vryheid to Newcastle, Ladysmith and Escourt.

Beef production

The Highveld and Midlands areas of KwaZulu-Natal are the main beef production areas.

Popular beef breeds include the indigenous Afrikaner and Nguni and locally developed Bonsmara and Drakensberger. European and American breeds such as Charolais, Hereford, Angus, Simmentaler, Sussex, Brahman and Santa Gertrudis are maintained as pure breeds or used in cross-breeding. Beef cattle farms range from fairly small farms (less than 50 cattle) to large farms with more than 1 000 cattle per farm.

There is a growing trend to finishing beef cattle in feedlots, and it is reported that about 60% of cattle in
South Africa are now finished for slaughter in feedlots that maximise the potential of the animals by feeding grain and supplements to achieve best potential weights and grades.


Goats, like cattle, play an important role in the livelihood of rural people in South Africa. They are plentiful and require low inputs for a moderate level of production, reach maturity early and are profitable to keep.

There is both local traditional demand and an emerging commercial interest in the sale of chevon (goat meat). Chevon has low fat and cholesterol content; 40% lower than beef, rabbit or chicken with the skin removed, yet has a higher protein content.

There is, however, a potential for obtaining additional income ("adding value") by making use of the fine, soft undercoat (cashmere) produced by some breeds.


Sheep farming is concentrated in the drier areas of the province along the Drakensberg, Vryheid and Southern Natal.

The pig population of KwaZulu-Natal was estimated to be 164,000 in 2005, with Estcourt, Mooi River and Dalton being areas with concentrations of piggeries.


Poultry production (mainly of chicken) is an important agricultural sector in South Africa. 


The egg industry consists of three sectors

  • Day old chicken production
  • Layer replacement production
  • Egg production

Emerging farmers are entering into the poultry sector, some with a great deal of success but skills training is an imperative. At present much of these farmers' sales is through the informal sector but the development of co-operatives could see more penetration of formal marketing channels. Joint ventures with established companies especially to facilitate transport requirements are also an option.


Game farming

Game farming in South Africa has grown over the years, and today is one of the fastest growing agricultural industries in South Africa. The sector includes trophy hunting, live game sales, ecotourism, and biltong and venison sales.


Hunting is a popular tourism activity. In a Report to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by a Panel of Experts on Professional and Recreational Hunting in South Africa, 25 October 2005, it was mentioned that there are many opportunities for promoting or advancing transformation of the hunting industry. These include options for greater community involvement in hunting, greater ownership of extensive wildlife production units by previously disadvantaged individuals and employment opportunities in all high skilled occupations associated with both the hunting industry and its ancillary industries.

This transformation must be promoted through a number of processes: a Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charter and Score-card, a skills development strategy and an assortment of support strategies for communities that either currently own land or are to acquire land that has extensive wildlife production potential.



Forestry plays an important role in the economy and is one of the sectors identified as a key growth area in terms of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (Asgi-SA). 

Forestry is a rural activity and many of the poorest people live in these areas. The future growth of the industry lies with small-scale growers in mostly rural communities. South Africa has identified the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces as key for development in the forestry, wood and paper sector, with reforestation a vital part of the strategy.

The two largest forest owners in  South Africa, Sappi and Mondi are to be found in KwaZulu-Natal. In addition, NCT Forestry Co-operative Limited (NCT) is a timber marketing co-operative catering to the needs of private and independent timber growers. 

 Sappi Saiccor is the world's largest manufacturer of chemical cellulose (dissolving pulp).

The manufacture of wood products remains a part of the manufacturing activities but for the most part paper production occurs.



The sugar cane growing areas of South Africa namely; KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, generate an income from the sale of sugar and molasses of over R4.2 billion per annum. The heart of the sugar industry is in, KwaZulu-Natal, where it contributes between 0,5% and 0,7% of the national gross domestic production, 0,5% of total income tax, 0,9% of merchandise exports by value and about 0,3% of salaries and wages.

The sugar industry in Kwa-Zulu-Natal supports the livelihoods and incomes of close to one-million people in the province and is a cornerstone of business development in rural areas in which sugar cane is grown. The industry employed directly over 136 000 people and indirectly supported the jobs of a further 110 000. In total, the industry employed 10,9% of agricultural workers in South Africa who comprised 1,3 % of the total national employment.

The most important agricultural area lies along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, where sugarcane is the major crop. Sugar growing is of increasing importance in the Midlands. The SA industry is composed of 15 sugar mills, 13 of which are scattered from the southern border of KwaZulu-Natal to its northern border, and 2 of which are in Mpumalanga. Most of the sugar cane supplied to these mills is produced by registered cane growers, the balance being supplied by the mill estates. The production of sugar cane on communally held land has expanded significantly in the past 25 years. Allied to the expansion in cane production in these areas has been the development of a large number of contractors who harvest and transport the cane.

The output of the industry had been in decline for a number of years driven by multiple variables, including the international pricing issues, international market access issues, competition from other sugar producing countries, a slow land reform process, climatic conditions and property development pressures on cane land.

The key challenge for the sugar cane industry remains the maintenance of competitiveness in relation to other world-class producers and industries. It is clear that the production of bio- ethanol and biogases could become a real option in the future.


Although the area between Port Shepstone and Port Edward accounts for the bulk of banana production in KwaZulu-Natal, the warmer but equally humid coastal strip from Durban northwards and particularly north of Mtubatuba/St. Lucia is climatically regarded as the area with the best production potential in South Africa. There is consequently good reason to promote  banana production in the humid low lying coastal belt in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal for both the small-scale farmer, as well as the commercial farmer.


The main producing areas of pineapples in South Africa are Northern KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and, on a smaller scale, the Northern Province. Pineapples are one of the most important subtropical crops cultivated in the country. As the crop is indigenous to the tropics, growth regions must be warm, humid and free from extreme temperatures (25 °C being optimal).

The Cayenne and Queen Pineapple varieties are widely cultivated in South Africa.

The Smooth Cayenne cultivar is used for both canning (75 % of which is exported) and as fresh fruit. The Queen, because of its high sugar content and unsuitable canning qualities, is cultivated only for fresh consumption. The Hluhluwe region of KwaZulu-Natal produces over 90% of South Africas queen pineapples.

Virtually the entire Cayenne crop is used locally for processing purposes. However, Queen Pineapples are air freighted from South Africa to Europe in small quantities. Baby pines also find their way to the Middle East and the Far East.

There is potential for further growth of the industry.

Indigenous Medicinal Plants

 Indigenous Natural Products derived from plants have been traded in the Southern African region for centuries. The global healthcare trend towards alternative and natural health remedies provides a unique opportunity for increased export of medicinal plant products from Southern Africa. There is a need for government to invest in research into commercialisation of indigenous plant products and to provide support to emerging businesses that are selling indigenous plant products on the formal market.

The indigenous medicinal plant trade in KwaZulu-Natal is worth about R62 million annually - more than the annual maize harvest in the Province. The product range is enormous and includes over 1000 medicinal plant species. Indigenous plants are a source of fuel, craftwork material, food supplements and food items such as jams and beverages manufactured from indigenous fruits for many people in the Province. The amount of plant material traded in KwaZulu-Natal is estimated at 4 500 tonnes per year. Most of this material is traded in the informal street markets, Durban and Umlazi being the largest of these.
Two thirds of the population of the Province, relies on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs. Traditional medicine is deeply rooted in Zulu culture and is unlikely to be replaced by western medicine. There is a widely held belief in Zulu culture that health, disease, success or misfortune are not chance events but the result of the active influence of individuals or ancestral spirits. For this reason, traditional healers are held in high esteem in Zulu culture and are regularly consulted by a large proportion of the population. Diviners (iSangoma) are consulted to find out what a problem might be. An herbalist (iNyanga) is then recommended by the iSangoma to treat the ailment. Indigenous plants are used by the traditional healers to divine and to treat.
Opportunities exist in
i)   Promoting the development of processing skills
ii) Promoting the development of Business Skills
iii)Protecting wild stocks
iv)Investing in the cultivation of high-value species
v)  Investing in the commercialisation of new products for the higher value formal markets.

eThekwini Municipality: Case Study in Supporting the Indigenous Natural Products Industry
Extensive trade in medicinal plant products takes place within the eThekwini Municipality (Durban, South Africa).It is estimated that:
  • 1 500 tonnes of plant material is traded per annum, with a value of R21 million (the raw unprocessed products).
  • Some four million products are dispensed through prescription per year, adding R152 million to the value of the trade (total trade value per annum is thus R173 million). 
  • 13 950 income-generating opportunities are provided by the medicinal plants.  eThekwini Municipality Interventions.
  • Promoting improved processing of medicinal plant products: eThekwini Municipality has invested in two hammer mills (heavy-duty grinders) for the Herb Market at Warwick Junction. 
  • Providing Market Information.
  • Promoting cultivation of medicinal plant products:

Indigenous Fibres

In South Africa, production and support of commercial indigenous fibre operations are concentrated largely in the KwaZulu-Natal province. This is largely because of two factors:

1) The high availability of a range of indigenous fibre materials, and
 2) The large rural population with a history of cultural use of indigenous fibres for weaving a variety of utility and craftwork products.
The indigenous fibre industry is currently based largely on wild-harvested plant stocks. The cultivation that is taking place is on a small scale to supply individual businesses only, and production volumes are likely to be low. These farms also focus on a very narrow range of species.


The marine life is diverse, making sea-fishing an enormously popular activity along the entire KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Trout fishing is popular inland. Recreational fishing is popular with tourists and locals.

The Government has published a set of policy guidelines for the allocation of commercial fishing rights. The guidelines alerted applicants to the fact that specific criteria, such as black economic empowerment, employment equity, investment and experience in the fishing industry would carry a weighting in the adjudication process, and stipulated that applicants would be required to elucidate the ways in which their companies met these criteria in their applications. The industry is regulated by Marine and Coastal Management. Three TACs (Total Allowable Catch) are set a year. MCM has established the Fishing Effort and Vessel Change Advisory Committee to monitor fishing effort.
Fishery stocks are managed using a variety of methods:
  • Assigning fishing rights under authority of a permit.
  • Determining fishing quotas to each permit (a function of the Total Allowable Catch)
  • Setting minimum size limits.
  • Placing restrictions on the type of gear that may be used to catch.
  • Having closed seasons.
  • Having closed areas.
  • Restricting the effort (e.g. limiting the number of fishermen on a squid jigging boat).
A great interest has been shown by many people in KwaZulu-Natal in farming with fish and other aquatic animals.
The basic requirements and aspects that must be considered by any prospective fish farmer when investigating its potential are the following:
  • water availability and supply
  • suitable site or dam
  • suitable area for species (warm/cold water)
  • suitable species (demand/market)
  • available feed
  • availability of fingerlings
  • legal aspects
Commercial farming of indigenous prawns
White Prawn or LM prawns (Peneaus indicus) are indigenous to the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal waters. Amatikulu Prawns (Pty) Ltd have done groundbreaking work in the cultivation of indigenous prawns in South Africa. Mtunzini recognizes the potential of prawn and fish farming in the region. Their expertise, in partnership with the government's integrated rural development plan, could see the development of more farms in the future. This sort of development will take the shape of co-operative type farming, which the government is willing to fund through Development Agencies.

Herbs and Essential Oils

Essential oils are used in a range of products from food flavouring to industrial solvents. Botanical extracts are primarily used for pharmaceutical and medicinal purposes, while plant-derived chemical gums and polymers have more industrial uses.

The international trade in essential oils is significant and there are many opportunity to increase the Southern African Trade of Indigenous Essential Oils. Consumer preferences in favour of natural substances over synthetic substances has had a strong impact on the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, which has translated into a growing demand for essential oils and plant extraction. The South African essential oils industry comprises over 100 small producers of which only a few are regular producers. Most oil production in the country is in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape regions

The Southern African Essential Oil Producers Association (SAEOPA) is a newly formed association that is actively involved in community-based production of essential oils for on-sale into the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics markets.

The KwaZulu-Natal Essential Oil Producers Association (KZNEopa) has investigated steps that the industry has to take to ensure the sustainable production of the best oils possible. The investigation was also aimed at steps to assist emerging farmers with the production of essential oils. KZN-Eopa promotes various aspects such as quality control, plant production, distillation and product marketing. It also provides assistance and advice to emerging farmers.


The Ilembe District Municipality (IDM) has identified the essential oil industry as a means of linking the poor rural hinterlands with the wealthy coastal strip of KwaZulu-Natal.

Indications are that rose, geranium and lavender plants for essential oil production would grow particularly well in the Ilembe area and would create commercial opportunities for local workers.


uThungulu District Municipality intends to develop approximately 20 hectares of essential oils with the view to creating sustainable long-term employment. The business plan constructed by the municipality outlines the projected profit/loss forecast for the first five years, and presents the project as a viable economic concern. The project also encourages skills transfer among farmers, provides direct and indirect employment for the communities and boosts economic activity in the region.

The municipality is looking for investors interested in rolling out an essential oils cultivation project in the following regions:

  • uMlalazi
  • Ntambanana
  • Mbonambi

The municipality is also happy to consider proposals from investors interested in other regions not mentioned here.


KZN Agriculture

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