South Africa is looking to relax rules on genetically modified crops such as corn to help improve farmers yields and avert a looming food crisis due to a severe drought that has hit the country for the last four years.
According to a Reuters report, the country, which is the largest producer of corn in Africa, is looking to import more of the product from the US and Mexico to avert a crisis.
South Africa expected to reap the smallest harvest in nine years in 2016 after the country suffered the lowest rainfall since records began because of the global El Nino weather pattern.
“In anticipation of the volumes expected to be imported into South Africa, the (GMO) Executive Council has approved the adjustment of a permit condition which relates to the handling requirement,” Makenosi Maroo, spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture, told Reuters.
South Africa is in its fourth year of drier-than-average weather, but 2015 was by far the most severe.
Prices for white corn, used to make a staple food known as pap, rose to a record on January 21 as dry weather hurt supply.
According to Bloom
berg, South Africa will probably need to import about 970 000 tons of corn in the year to April and 5 million tons of corn in the following 12 months as rainfall declined to the least since at least 1904, according to Grain SA, the biggest farm lobby.
Some analysts have warned against raising prospects of “food riots” as a result of expected hike in food prices caused by persistent drought conditions in the country.
“When we look at what’s going to happen to food prices, we see it’s going to increase substantially and there might be that there’s going to be some public revolt about that,” Grain South Africa CEO Jannie de Villiers told a parliamentary committee on agriculture.
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