At least R20bn will be needed to import maize – Grain SA

South Africa will need at least R20bn to import the 5 to 6 million tons of maize needed to mitigate the effects the drought has had on crop production in the country, according to Grain SA.

“If you take 5 or 6 million tons and multiply that by the current price of about R3 500, you are going to get to an awful amount of money, something like R20bn,” CEO Jannie de Villiers told reporters in Pretoria on Friday.

“This is only maize. We are not talking about the two million tons of wheat we import. We still need soya beans.”

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries was briefing the media on the impact of the drought on the country. Minister Senzeni Zokwana said South Africa would have to import maize to ensure there was food in the country. The briefing followed a meeting with all stakeholders to evaluate the current situation.

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De Villiers said the current crop did not paint a positive picture for the country. He said if nothing was done, the country could run out of white maize by September.

“We have stocks and if we look at the current crop, we are going to run out of white maize by September. This is why we need to look at imports, rather earlier than later. The difficulty is that white maize is not readily available throughout the world,” he said.

“We are still talking to government as to what is it that we can do to find white maize, maybe in Mexico and the US. The rest of the maize [yellow maize] will be coming from Argentina, Brazil and the countries in the black sea. The issue here will be the price,” he added.

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AgriSA CEO Omri van Zyl said the country was sitting with a huge problem that required immediate action.

“The reality is that we are sitting with a national emergency here. Decisive action is needed until we have alleviated this crisis. It is very important that we work together towards implementing plans properly. We need to elevate this to the next level ,” he said.

The importing of maize would, however, hit consumers the hardest. National Agricultural Marketing Council CEO Tshililo Ramabulana said family spending would increase by at least 25%.

“If we end up importing 5 to 6 million tons of maize at R4 500, the assumption is that if you look at the normal food basket that a family consumes. That basket will increase by 25%.

“If you have a household of four and they are currently spending R240 for the basket, that will most probably increase to R350 per month,” he said.

News 24