There are two distinct agricultural production mechanisms in South Africa, which differ greatly in content, level, and characteristics of production. On the one hand, large, developed farms run by a small number of white farmers are highly commercialized agriculture, providing more than 90 percent of South Africa's total agricultural output. On the other hand, there is traditional agriculture, which is subsistence for Africans. South Africa's new government inherited a highly unequal land ownership structure. Apartheid-era land laws gave 86 percent of the land to whites, pushing vast numbers of blacks into "reservations" with poor land. By the end of apartheid, previously white areas were occupied by 67,000 farmers, most of them over 1,000 hectares. 71% of the rural population lives on the remaining 14% of the land. Black areas have as little as 0.1 hectares of arable land per person. These two extremes of South African agriculture are unlikely to change much in the short term.
Agricultural commodity rate and productivity are among the highest in Africa. The commercial agricultural economy has a long history in South Africa and has been closely linked with the overseas markets of the host country from the very beginning. The Cape Colony was founded with the first task of providing passing ships with vegetables, meat, freshwater, and other necessities of life. After the rise of diamond and gold mining, a large number of immigrants came to the city, which made the rapid development of the city. The rapidly increasing urban population's large demand for grain, vegetables, meat, and fruit greatly promoted the commercialization of agricultural production. After the federation of South Africa was founded in 1910, many in power, acting on behalf of the Interests of The Boer farmers, passed a series of legislation in favor of white farmers, gradually leading to the transition to modern agriculture in South Africa. After the Second World War, the spread of agricultural mechanization, greatly improved agricultural productivity and commodity rate. In 1994, there were 126,000 farm tractors and 12,700 combine harvesters. Each agricultural labor force produces an average of 7,766 kilograms of grain and 660 kilograms of meat. Although agriculture in South Africa is heavily influenced by climate and topography, with the exception of a few dry years, it has always been a self-sufficient and exporting country.
The regional differences are stark. Agriculture in South Africa varies with geographical and resource conditions, and each region has its own distinct characteristics. Major crops have their own concentrated production areas. For example, maize, the most important crop, is concentrated in the North-west Province, the north-west, north and east of Free State, the Mpumalanga high steppe (above 1300 m), and the Kwazulu-Natal region. Wheat is the second most important food crop after maize and is produced mainly in the Western Cape, North West, North North, and Free State, where winter rains occur (the state has the highest yields, but annual yields vary widely due to climate). The Mediterranean climate zone in the southwestern part of the Western Cape province has reliable rainfall and mild and rainy winters, providing superior conditions for the growth of wheat. It is the most stable wheat-producing area and is known as the "wheat barn". Among other food crops, barley, rye, oats, and other sown areas are not large, concentrated in the southwestern Mediterranean climate zone. South Africa is the tenth-largest sugar producer in the world. Sugarcane is concentrated in the frost-free coastal areas and the humid coastal areas of Kwazulu-Natal province. Another 10% or so of sugarcane is grown in the irrigated agricultural areas of southern Mapumalanga Province. Cotton is distributed in the northern province.