The economic effect of mechanised harvesting technology on grape-producing farms in the Western Cape Province of South Africa
Perel, OBrien Jonathan
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Mechanisation and technological development in agriculture is becoming increasingly apparent, not just in developing countries, but also in African countries, and more particularly in South Africa. The purpose of the research was to evaluate the economic impact of mechanical grape harvesting on wine farms in the Western Cape. Subsequently, it further determined the factors influencing the adoption of mechanical harvesting of wine grapes, as well as the factors influencing mechanical processes on labourers. The third objective was to determine if a farmer would consider mechanical harvesting and whether it would be profitable to use it. Therefore, the economic aspects are addressed by these objectives, whether it would be financially feasible and viable to make use of mechanical harvesting, would the reduction in labour cost strengthen adoption and which other economic factors would contribute to the adoption of mechanical harvesting. The research comprised of both secondary and primary data; primary data stood mainly for determining factors that have an impact on adoption and labourers on these wine-producing farms. Secondary data were used to assess the profitability of employing a mechanical harvester for harvesting grapes. The number of farmers that participated in this study consisted of 91 producers of wine grapes. The result clearly showed that increasing average yield of grapes in tons per year and hectares used for the production of wine grapes were negatively associated with farmers utilising mechanical harvesting for the harvesting of wine grapes. There were three different scenarios for harvesting grapes on wine farms with respectively 100 ha and 40 ha under wine grapes. The results also showed that it would be more profitable for wine grape producing farmers to make use of mechanical harvesters for harvesting grapes with a land size cultivation area of 100 ha instead of a wine grape cultivation area of 40 ha land. The study revealed that permanent labour and hectares used for the cultivation of wine grapes do not significantly impact the adoption of mechanical harvesting of grapes. Farms with an average land size of about 75 ha to 100 ha, found mostly in the Breede Valley Municipality, would be more prone to mechanical harvesting than farms in the Stellenbosch area with an average wine grape land size of 40 ha, as investments in such machinery are profitable. The study also showed that the increase in hectares used for the cultivation of wine grapes, the number of seasonal labour, permanent labour, the number of hectares used for wine grapes, mechanical harvesting, as well as the cost of mechanical harvesting did not decrease seasonal or permanent labour demand. It was clear that larger farming units with higher production output, especially in the Breede Valley Local Municipality would be more prepared to adopt mechanical harvesting. The results of the research revealed that mechanical harvesting would be profitable if adopted, and it would not reduce labour on the wine-producing farms. However, further research is needed for a comprehensive understanding of mechanisation at large to provide tangible interventions from government.