The South African Drought and Food Prices

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How will the SA Drought affect Food Prices?

News24 quoted Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene as saying: “If [the drought is] long, indeed it will have serious impact on the food prices. It will have an impact on economic growth because agriculture is one of our focus areas. It would also have an impact on employment; it would have an impact on our revenues.” He also added “We are bracing ourselves for the worst”.

The drought in South Africa is threatening the agricultural sector and will also impact the production of maize, a staple food in South Africa. Rising food prices will put an even bigger burden on cash-strapped and debt-ridden consumers who are struggling to make ends meet.

Five provinces – KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo and the Free State – have been declared drought disaster areas. The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, said: “South Africa has declining but sufficient stock levels of white maize until the end of April; yellow maize stocks will be very tight. According to the crop estimate committee, the maize production estimate declined from 14.2 million [tons] in 2013 to 9.8 million tons in 2014, 31% less.”

On 13 November 2015 News24 stated “If rain doesn’t fall in the next few weeks, the crop and livestock prospects for many commodities will be decidedly bleak, with direct and material impact on the earnings of farmers and the companies that support them, and on food price inflation.” The main commodities which are being affected are maize, wheat, sugar cane, and citrus. However, “all commodities and livestock in drought-stricken areas are affected.”

Santam agriculture manager for specialised crop insurance, Johan van den Berg, has stated that the only places where there are no problems are the Eastern and Southern Cape. The next few weeks are crucial for the maize industry as the planting takes place from mid-October to late-December.

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South African Drought 2015

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The devastating country-wide drought will affect each one of us

Severe drought is and has always been a problem in South Africa. This particular drought cycle is one of the worst the country had to endure for decades and the potential consequences for each and every one of us are serious. Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Freestate provinces have already been declared as disaster areas, but the situation in the North West Province, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northern Cape is fast deteriorating. In most of these areas severe water shortages has seen water restrictions being introduced.

Government says that providing aid for farmers is not a priority

The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, said that there is no aid for struggling farmers on the table at this time. She said that farmers will simply have to learn to farm differently. She pointed out that a staggering 60% of all water used in South Africa are used by irrigation farmers. “Organised agriculture will have to learn to adapt to changing circumstances” she continued.

Millions without even a drop

The minister said that the government’s main priority is those 6 500 communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West province, consisting of more than 2.7 million families that has no water at all. If it does not rain soon more than 11 000 communities will be left stranded without water. Those of us living in the suburbs probably cannot even contemplate the idea of having to walk kilometres to get a single bucket of untreated water.

Let us all act responsibly

It is our responsibility to accept the fact that we live in a country where water will always remain a precious resource. We can all help to improve the situation and it would be wrong to think that one individual or household cannot make a difference. You can!

  • Your garden consumes vast quantities of water. Switch to indigenous plants that require only a fraction of the water needed by exotic species.

  • Pay attention to leaking taps. They waste hundreds of litres every day.

  • Think of ways in which to use your bath and dish-washing water in your garden.

  • Shower and if you have to bath, do not fill the tub!

If we do not all take the drought seriously and if we neglect to do whatever we can to save water we will soon be in a situation that we will all regret. Let us all become part of the solution!

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