South Africa has been hit by the worst drought since the end of the apartheid rule and is threatening to scorch away dreams of small-scale farmers and emerging black commercial farmers.
The drought has caused a water crisis in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumlanga, which has threatened to cripple the food industry, with prices expected to rise in the next few weeks, eNCA reported.
The drought has not spared traditional cattle farmers, who are finding it harder to feed their herds on thinning grazing pasture.
One small-scale farmer told Reuters he had “no choice but to sell some of [his] cattle before the die”.
The government has reacted to the drought by declaring the water shortage in KwaZulu Natal and Free State a disaster and asking people in the region to use water sparingly.
Livestock farmers have also been urged to cut their herd sizes instead of having them die due to lack of enough pasture.
The south African government plans to do more to help farmers and urban residents cope with the drought, but it has not yet come up with a clear plan on how it is going to do this.
“The shortage of water has certainly had an impact on the food industry and we are expected to see a possible food price increase in the next four weeks,” Neil Davison of Food Bank South Africa, who believes food prices will increase in December, told eNCA.
“Government will have to help farmers on the current crisis, we don’t know how exactly they will do it,” he added.
Commercial farmers are already struggling to make a profit from their land with new black farmers, who benefited from a government initiative to reduce racial imbalance in the agricultural sector by buying white-owned farms and giving them to blacks, facing serious challenges due to their lack of technical know-how.
Any perceived failure of these black farmers is seen as a political thorn for the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) and could erode it rural base.
“Some of the medium-sized farmers in KwaZulu Natal have been a success story and so it would be quite a blow to the party if they failed now even if it doesn’t seem fair because it is weather-related,” political analyst Nic Borain told Reuters.
South Africa’s corn farmers, who usually rely on loans as part of their operations, may need help from the government before the planting season.
The country is Africa’s leading corn producer and a fall in crop yield could have far reaching effect in other regional countries like Zimbabwe that rely of imports to feed its people.
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May 06 2021
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