Warnings of food shortages
South Africa faces a 5 million-ton maize shortage as the drought tightens its grip and experts are warning that the country is at risk of becoming a grain importer.
University of the Free State agriculture economist Johan Willemse said the winter crop would be 5million tons less than was needed.
"It is a dire situation ... the price of white maize has already doubled. Another problem is that in 2016-2017 there will not be enough white maize. People will not have sufficient food and maize meal will be expensive," Willemse said.
"Farmers are having huge losses. They cannot get credit to plant new crops so we run the risk of becoming an importer of grains".
Willemse said last year South Africa imported a million tons of yellow maize and 80000t of white maize from Mexico and Zambia.
He said a statement by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Senzeni Zokwana in Pretoria yesterday to the effect that South Africa would have to import maize because there was not enough stored to last until May was misleading because the country was already importing maize.
After the briefing Zokwana told The Times: "The rain has not been coming to enable farmers to plant . we might be compelled to import maize around May and June."
Zokwana said his department had teamed up with other government departments to assess the effects of the drought and how much maize would have to be imported.
"We do not know what is planted now and how much we will need to import. We need to [talk to grain farmers' association] Grain SA," said Zokwana.
Zokwana said R226 million had been allocated to help farmers buy feed for livestock and establish alternative water sources.