Sisonke district is ideally suited for field crop production. Several factors impact on the productivity and growth of the sector, namely: growth in the SA economy and rising consumer demand; international trade and trade agreements; the global recession and rise in food prices; the land reform programme; reliance on imports; water availability; changing consumer patterns and demands (e.g. organic food stuffs); rising costs of agricultural inputs ; technological changes and mechanisms; quality standards; farm safety and security; broad based black economic empowerment; skills demand and supply; HIV/AIDS; and changing climate.
Maize is the most important grain crop in South Africa, and the second largest crop produced in the country after sugar cane, and it is grown in Sisonke District. There has been an average gross value produced of R7 156 million over the past 10 years. Export capacity is enhanced by presence of Durban harbour. Of all maize consumed in South Africa, 50% is by humans, 40% for animal feed, 10% for seed and industrial uses. Use include: animal feed; maize meal; samp, maize grits, maize rice; starch paste for paper coating and sizing, textile sizing, corrugated boards and adhesives; maize oil in soap, salve, paint, rust roofing, inks, textiles, insecticides; margarine; and as a carrier molecule in pharmaceutical preparations. Factors influencing production include: increases in average producer prices; deregulation of agricultural marketing; international market conditions; the transport situation; and GMO maize threatening the domestic markets.
Products from citrus farming are among the highest in world exports rankings in South Africa, with oranges ranking 3rd, lemon and lime ranking 7th, grapefruit ranking 4th, and naartjie ranking 8th. There is a high level of fruit production in many parts of Sisonke District Municipality, and great potential for improved returns if more farmers engage more in processing of fruits. Case studies suggest that small-scale fruit and vegetable processing has potential these improved returns will come as long as appropriate processing equipment, processing skills, packing materials, and marketing information are made available. This operation does not require much investment in equipment. The challenges that are faced for SME’s have to do with high distribution costs, and high cost of packaging.
Potatoes are the most important crop in SA, are particularly prominent in Sisonke District Municipality. This is because the climate and the soils are well suited for potato farming. Most production is for domestic markets, however processed potatoes are exported. Moreover, domestic demand for potatoes and potato-related products is increasing. Potatoes make up 44% of total gross value of vegetable production, 14% of horticultural production, and 7% of total agricultural products. 1.86 million tons were produced in 2009. Value-added opportunities are mainly limited to frozen, dry, and fresh chips; and canned potatoes. However, there is an opportunity in making flour from sweet potatoes. Factors influencing production include: expansion of the fast-food industry; higher average income of the population; the rapid rate of urbanization; and the influx of international processing companies. Competition is also very strong for emerging farmers.
Livestock farming has a very long history in the district. Kwa-Sani Local Municipality alone contributes a substantial amount to total agricultural income in the area. The number of cattle slaughtered has increased, mainly due to increasing demand. The beef supply chain is also becoming increasingly vertically integrated, with feedlots owning abattoirs. However, beef farming in Sisonke is hindered by the lack of an abattoir in the area. The industry also faces a difficult environment in the district. Beef production has declined, causing the Ixopo Agricultural Society to be dissolved. This is unlikely not to improve as there are currently no projects involving commercial cattle production.