January ’21: The SA Pest Control Industry

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Happy New Year!

Shoo – I think we can all say that 2020 was not expected and that we are grateful to put it in the past!

BUT, what better way to learn and grow than look at our history. So – we thought we could start this year strong on a short blog on the South African Pest Control Industry: where it is today and where we hope it is going to go in the future!


In South Africa, pest control is a sub-sector of the Agricultural sector. It has 3 components:

  1. Pest Control (formal pest control operators who perform pest control services in the commercial, industrial and domestic industries),
  2. Working for Water Project (a government project aiming to eradicate alien plants), and
  3. Farming Sector (farmworkers who apply pesticides to plants and animals).

The Pest Control sub-sector is a very small sector, largely made of SMMEs. Pest Control Operators (PCOs) or Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) are the core of the Pest Control sub-sector. They are trained and registered with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) meaning that, effectively, one cannot apply pesticides without being registered. Registration serves to ensure that the correct training and skills have been accomplished in applying pesticides correctly. This is so that:

  1. Pest control individuals are protected as they work with highly toxic substances, and
  2. The environment, other living organisms, animals and people are minimally effected.

Unfortunately, there are about 4 600 registered pest control operators and 1 150 non-registered operators, who we call ‘fly-by-nights’ or ‘1-man-bakkie-shows’. This means that ¼ of the pest control operators out there are working illegally! So it is always important to ask for a copy of the person’s Pest Control License (P Number) when getting a pest management job done.

The industry is extremely male-dominated, with more than 75% male employees (more than half of these are younger than 35). The average education of a pest control operator is a Grade 10. So, even though PCOs are the core of the business, a lot of time and energy is placed in staff training and skills development.


The future of the South African pest control industry (in our opinion) is very bright. Large food retailers (local and international) are beginning to push for more responsible protocols such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).

AND….there is an increasing emphasis on the green economy in government policy, i.e. sustainable practices that require new knowledge and skills to enable progress from classic pest control practices to environmentally-friendly pesticides that are less harmful to humans.

The pest control sub-sector has an important role to play in the South African landscape and economy. It contributes to a healthy environment and the eradication of pests and the diseases that they transmit. In this way, this sub-sector protects our production and storage of food, our households, our schools, our hospitals, our offices and so on!

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