The primary objective of agricultural economists is to maximize profitability in agriculture to the benefit of society. They pursue this aim through studying and analysing the aspects that influence the agricultural economy and distribution of resources, such as land, raw materials, labour and machinery.
This includes the manufacture and distribution of agricultural means of production; farming itself; the understanding of and, in some cases, the determination of, government policy concerning agricultural and consumption affairs; the purchasing, processing and distribution of agricultural products; the financing of all aspects of agricultural production; the marketing and selling of agricultural products; economic evaluation of agricultural projects; agricultural development; as well as research and giving advice on all these facets.
Agricultural economists advise the agricultural sector on issues such as financing, marketing, agricultural development, policy, research and production. They use mathematical models to develop programmes that can predict the length and nature of agricultural cycles; they do research, and then review and analyze their research and report on it in clear, concise language that can be understood by non-economists.
The field of study of agricultural economics can be divided into seven components, namely:
Production economy: This involves the relationship between the inputs, production and profit as well as labour utilization.
Financial management: This includes aspects such as the management process itself, agricultural planning and the principles of financing.
Agricultural marketing: This involves all aspects of marketing such as the price system and market types.
Agricultural policy: This involves the interaction between agriculture and other sectors, the trade policy, production policy, price and income policy and the government functions.
Agricultural development: This is about the role which agriculture plays in the development of the economy as well as the role of the government and private initiative.
Operational research: This is the application of economic simulation and optimization techniques on agricultural problems.
Agricultural environmental economics: The economic evaluation of the interaction between agricultural production processes and the natural environment.
Agricultural economists work both indoors, in offices and such places as conference venues, and outdoors, doing research and consultations on farms. They often need to travel to perform research on special projects. They need to be comfortable working with government, national and international trade policies and regulations, production costs and techniques, market trends, economic principles and theories, statistical data and other financial information.
- variety of research projects
- meeting different people
- working in various locations
- very detailed work
- heavy responsibilities to furnish correct information at all times
- working to deadlines
- sometimes having to work overtime.
An agricultural economist should:
- be interested in the environment, particularly as it relates to agriculture;
- be interested in economics;
- have a high mathematical, analytical and scientific aptitude;
- be creative, thorough and analytical;
- have good communication, research and organisational skills.
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended Subjects: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Economics, Agricultural Sciences
Degree: the minimum qualification is a BSc (Agric) degree or a BCom (Agricultural Economics) degree. The BSc (Agric) degree takes four years to complete and it prepares candidates for careers in which not only knowledge of economical principles is necessary but also biological / agricultural knowledge. Besides careers in marketing and financing, the BSc (Agric) degree is especially suitable for persons in farming, input and processing industries.
The BCom (Agricultural Economics) degree takes three years to complete. The aim of the degree is to train experts for careers in Agricultural Economics in which biological / scientific knowledge is less important, such as in most facets of marketing, financing, commerce and income and trade policy.
Universities offering these degrees are UP, US, UKZN, UL, UFS and UFH.
- agricultural boards and development corporations
- consultants and development organizations
- financial houses and commercial banks
- insurance companies
- commercial and manufacturing companies concerned with agricultural products, such as the fertilizer-, chemical-, machinery-, forage-, meat processing, fruit trade and processing and food preservation and canning industries
- Development Bank of SA
- various government departments, such as the Departments of: Agriculture; Foreign Affairs; Trade and Industry; Labour; Environmental Affairs and Tourism; Water Affairs and Forestry
- self-employment - many agricultural economists set up their own consultancies
Agricultural Business Chamber
P O Box 1508
Agricultural Economics Association of SA
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Pretoria
Agricultural Research Council
P O Box 8783
Tel: (012) 427-9700 Fax: (012) 342-3948
Department of Agriculture
Private Bag X250
Tel: (012) 319-7328