SA’s poor to suffer more as maize crop declines

THE  poor will be affected by shrinking maize crops and soaring prices brought on by the drought, the department of agriculture warned in a parliamentary briefing on Tuesday.

Ikalafeng Kgakatsi, from the department’s climate change unit, said the country’s projected maize production for 2014 was 9.84 million tonnes, “the lowest maize yield since 2008”.

“This will affect the price of maize meal and the affordability of basic staple food especially by the poor and the vulnerable,” he said.

Kgakatsi said while South Africa should still have sufficient maize stock levels until May 2016, the supply of yellow maize — mainly used for cattle feed — would “very tight”.

The projected closing stock level for white maize is just over a million tonnes at the end of April that year, while it is estimated that stocks of yellow maize will be 283,884 tonnes compared to 791,054 tonnes the previous season.

The smaller crops have put severe pressure on prices. The market-to-market price for white maize for delivery in October was 79 percent higher than the same month in 2014.

Kgakatsi reminded MPs that the drought was also impacting severely on South Africa’s neighbours, and the maize yield forecast for southern Africa now stood at about 21 million tonnes, which is 15 percent lower than the five-year average for the region.

It is expected that Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland would be forced to import large volumes of maize as a result.

The grain industry accounts for about a quarter of South Africa’s agricultural GDP. According to Statistics SA, the agriculture sector has so far contracted by 17 percent as a result of the drought.

South Africa is the largest maize producer in the region and consumes about eight million tonnes a year and exports the rest. – ANA