South African agricultural R & D investments: Sources, structure, and trends, 1910-2007

F. Liebenberg, P. G. Pardey, M. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The twentieth century saw substantive shifts in the structure, funding and conduct of public agricultural research and development (R&D) and related regulatory and extension activities in South Africa. Following a long period of steady (and at times quite rapid) growth beginning in the early twentieth century, real spending on public agricultural R&D has essentially flat lined since the 1970s. There has also been an erratic pattern of funding per scientist and a loss of scientific personnel in recent decades. Notably, South Africa has lost ground relative to its competitors in international commodity markets, such as the United States (US) and Australia in terms of the intensity of investment in agricultural R&D. In the absence of changes to these trends, these developments may well have enduring, and detrimental, consequences for the productivity performance and competitiveness of South African agriculture. They deserve serious policy attention as the twenty-first century unfolds, with a firm eye to the long-run given the lengthy lags (often many decades) that typify the relationship between public agricultural R&D spending and productivity growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The share of levy income directed to agricultural R&D varies markedly across industries and among years within an industry (table 3). For example, in 2007 the Citrus Levy directed 64 per cent of its levy income to R&D, whereas the Dairy Levy and Red Meat Levy each spent only 3 per cent of their income on research. The types of research supported by levy funds also vary. For example, in 2007 around 79 per cent of the levy income collected by the winter cereal industry was directed to projects addressing the response of crops to changes in external factors affecting them, such as diseases and pests (NAMC, 2007). Notably, the share of statutory levy income earmarked for agricultural research projects has declined over the past three years, from 42 per cent of the total levy income in 2006 to 32 per cent in 2008 (NAMC, 2009). ARC’s share of the levy income allocated to research has also declined from 42 per cent in 2007 to 37 per cent in 2008 (NAMC, 2008, 2009).

Funding Information:
coordinating mechanisms within government to guide investments in R&D across these institutions. The more recent increases in agricultural R&D spending by provincial agencies have been largely driven by the farmer settlement and land restitution and reform needs of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development and the Comprehensive Agricultural Support programmes. Moreover, the agricultural research activities of the provincial departments of agriculture lie outside the purview of the National Advisory Council on Innovation that oversees and evaluates the Science Councils such as ARC. Under the new national R&D strategy the provincial departments do, however, have access to funding from competitively bided funds and funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for Centres of Excellence.

Funding Information:
Until 1992, research by the DoA relied heavily on block grant funding from the national government.12 The commodity oriented Control Boards (such as the Wheat Board, Tobacco Board, Maize Board, etc.), which operated under the statutory marketing structures for agriculture that existed under various guises from 1937 to 1992, were an additional source of support. Allocations to agricultural research were made from levy income generated by way of the marketing schemes promulgated under the Agricultural Marketing Act (Act 59 of 1968). ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? The reported share of government core-funding for ARC dropped from 89.8 per cent in 1992/93, to 76.2 per cent in 1995/96. The target was to reduce the share of government funding to 70 per cent by 2000 in line with a general understanding reached with organised agriculture prior to the establishment of ARC. ARC exceeded this target by about 11 per cent. By 2001/02 the share of ARC funding from government in the form of block grants had fallen to 53 per cent of total revenue. Since then core funding has crept up to 62 per cent of total funding by 2007/08, mostly driven by increases in funding from the DoA and DST in an effort to redress shortfalls in funding for government commissioned diagnostic and research services provided by ARC. In addition, the DST now provides funding earmarked for the maintenance of national assets (gene bank, reference collections of fungi,


  • R&D investments
  • R&D structure
  • institutional history
  • public agricultural R&D


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