Agricultural Economist

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 analyse their research and report on it in clear, concise language comprehensible to people who are not economists.

The field of study of agricultural economics can be divided into seven components, namely:

Production economy: the relationship between the inputs, production and profit as well as labour utilisation.

Financial management: aspects such as the management process itself, agricultural planning and the principles of financing.

Agricultural marketing: all aspects of marketing such as the price system and market types.

Agricultural policy: the interaction between agriculture and other sectors, the trade policy, production policy, price and income policy and the government functions.
Agricultural development: the role which agriculture plays in the development of the economy as well as the role of the government and private initiative.

Operational research: the application of economic simulation and optimisation 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.

Personal Requirements

  • a deep interest in agriculture and the natural environment
  • interest in economics
  • high mathematical, analytical and scientific aptitude
  • creative, thorough and analytical
  • problem-solving abilities
  • good communication, research and organisational skills


  • agricultural boards and development corporations
  • consultants and development organisations
  • financial houses and commercial banks
  • insurance companies
  • commercial and manufacturing companies concerned with agricultural products, such as the fertiliser-, chemical-, machinery-, forage-, meat processing, fruit trade and processing and food preservation and canning industries
  • Development Bank of SA
  • CSIR
  • 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

Getting Started

  • speak to someone who is an agricultural economist
  • read as much as possible on agriculture generally
  • visit farmers and others employed in related fields


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