Worry about food prices, not heavy rains

South Africa’s food security remains stable despite the damage that has been caused by heavy rains across the country, which led to the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs declaring it a national disaster.

Even though property, infrastructure and maize fields in some parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Free State have been affected, the federation of agricultural organisations, AgriSA, says the food supply has not been affected by the La Niña weather conditions and South Africans should not worry about the country running out of food.

“It has impacted certain districts where some of those farmers have experienced a setback. To what extent this will have an impact on the total amount of maize that will be harvested we are still unsure at this point because if the weather conditions improve, some of the farmers will be able to save some of the crops, but there is damage, it is just difficult to quantify at this point,” said AgriSA’s executive director, Christo van der Rheede.

“Yes, there will be a shortage of particular products due to very wet conditions. I know that tomato production has been impacted by heavy rain and hail.”

South Africans should rather be worried about the potential increase in food prices that, Van der Rheede said, would be influenced more by input costs such as hikes in fertilisers and fuel prices as well as the expected 20.5% electricity hike that has been requested by Eskom.

The current damage caused by the heavy rains that affected farmers in particular parts of the country, did not necessitate concern because South Africa is also importing food from other countries as well as exporting to other countries.

He added that South Africa’s agricultural sector has been resilient when faced with the extremely dry weather conditions such as those brought a few years ago by El Niño conditions.

“Our farmers are used to these extremes, so if you have a loss in a particular area, there are also very good crops in other areas so we won’t see a shortage of food,” said Van der Rheede.

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Marcia Zali
Marcia Zali is an award winning journalist

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