Table of Contents

 See also the “Job creation” and “Agricultural education and training” chapters.


1. Overview

There are many different careers in the agricultural industry, from farm workers to scientists. Under heading 4, these careers and relevant academic path of study is set out.

There are hundreds of other careers which touch on the world of agriculture which may not be inherently agricultural in and of themselves. A look through the different chapters of this book will give you an idea of these: there are managers, secretaries, social workers, mechanics, lawyers, politicians, meteorologists etc. In this chapter we have tried to list some of these options too (see headings 5 and 6).

If you are considering a career in agriculture or in the agro-food industries, find out from the SETAs which skills are scarce. Publications setting out the scare skills in agriculture, forestry and fisheries can also be found on (take the “Branches” and “Food security and agrarian reform” options).

Two sources were vital in compiling this chapter: Careers in Agriculture and Water@work. Find both of these listed under the “Websites and publications” heading.


2. International business environment

Marcos Fava Neves and Roberto Fava Scare, two professors from the University of Sao Paula in Brazil, say that the world has seen a dramatic change in two of resources, people and management, over the past five years.

In Brazil, we’ve moved from a period of unemployment with plentiful labour for the food and agribusiness production to an era where there is a shortage of available workers. Additionally, they are both expensive and low-skilled. This is threatening the ability of food and agri-business to thrive and is one of the biggest challenges in Brazil — a country that has greatly benefited from of this demand-growth period due to the richness of resources.

Massive education is necessary in order to create the talent necessary for the future. This is something that takes time and is not easily solved. Countries which have made a strategic investment in education are now reaping the rewards. For example, in Russia and Chile, 24% of the population between ages 25 to 34 years have attended universities, while in Brazil and South Africa its remains closer to 7% (Mano and Ikeda 2013).

In the past, 12% of the jobs in developed countries required a university degree, today it’s 25%. In emerging economies, this figure grew from 4 to 10% in the same period. McKinsey & Company estimates that we will have a deficit of 40 million professionals with a university degree in the world by 2020 (Baily and Manyka 2013).

We are moving to an era of talent scarcity — urgency even more pronounced in the food and agri-business sector because highly skilled young people often find other industries more exciting. The task of finding, localizing and attracting qualified people is becoming increasingly important to each country’s operating policy.

Source: excerpts from “The global competition for talented people” by Marcos Fava Neves and Roberto Fava Scare. Read more at  


Wandile Sihlobo, Head of Agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz), writes in the Huffington Postwhy the class of 2016 should consider agriculture as a career.


3. Local business environment

By its nature, agriculture is primarily an outdoor occupation. However, that is not the whole picture. Agriculture is a science and needs people with degrees in science and engineering to help push it forward on levels such as genetics, soil management, and water management, physical construction such as dams and contouring, and mechanisation. This applies both in primary agriculture, on the farm, and downstream, in processing plants.

Agriculture is also a financial and business discipline. It takes significant investment to buy land, inputs such as seed, implements and equipment, and build processing plants or storage facilities. You need a high order of skill and insight to manage an agricultural operation’s cash flow, and physical and human assets, to ensure that it runs profitably and sustainably. Financial institutions such as Standard Bank employ agricultural economists and strategists to help agribusinesses to do just that.

The career opportunities in agriculture are extensive, and most of them require at least graduate capabilities. Another consideration is that they pay as well as equivalent executive and managerial positions in other industries.

Young people don’t always know this and so their career choices are curtailed.

In addition to the shortage of graduates working in agriculture itself, a shortage of certain agricultural scientists has developed. This puts South Africa’s ability to stay on par with the rest of the world at risk. We need researchers who can look at how best to exploit international developments here in South Africa, or help local agricultural operations innovate to take best advantage of local conditions. In this field, you could end up doing something as profound as helping to ensure food security for the country – or even the rest of the world.”

Source: Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank. 
Grain SA runs a schools programme which focuses on agriculture’s value. Enquiries can be directed to Willie Kotzé on 082 535 5250.