Drought fu­els the need to im­port maize

CityPress - - Busi­ness - XOLANI MBAN­JWA voices@city­press.co.za

The crip­pling drought has forced South Africa to be­come a net im­porter of maize for the first time in seven years.

This comes as the agri­cul­tural sec­tor is ex­pected to shrink by an­other dou­ble-digit fig­ure when Stats SA re­leases the fourthquar­ter num­bers early next year, Agri SA said this week.

The sec­tor took the sharpest de­cline, of 12.6%, be­tween July and Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) num­bers re­leased this week, and the in­dus­try is less op­ti­mistic about the pos­si­bil­ity of rain be­fore March.

Thabi Nkosi, Agri SA’s se­nior econ­o­mist, said most farm­ers had still not planted their maize and sugar crops, and would not un­less it rained by the end of next month.

“The pe­riod from Oc­to­ber to Novem­ber is the plant­ing sea­son, and we have not seen any rain; there­fore the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor is also tak­ing a knock, par­tic­u­larly the food and bev­er­ages in­dus­try be­cause that en­tire value chain is over­ex­posed to the ef­fects of the drought.

“Both sec­tors are in­ter­con­nected, but the good thing for us is that we can im­port – un­like most of those in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor,” said Nkosi.

If the drought per­sisted to March, Nkosi said ev­ery sec­tor would start feel­ing the ef­fects, in­clud­ing peo­ple who lived in ur­ban ar­eas.

“Whether you’re in the ru­ral parts of South Africa or in the cities, we will all start to feel the ef­fects if rain doesn’t fall,” said Nkosi.

Farm­ers, in­clud­ing those who had lost tens of thou­sands of live­stock an­i­mals, would con­tinue to count the costs of the drought even as na­tional and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment pumped hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands into drought re­lief.

Michael Manamela, Stats SA’s ex­ec­u­tive man­ager, said the big­gest con­trib­u­tors to the 0.7% GDP growth were the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, a lead­ing in­dus­try at 6.2%, fol­lowed by fi­nance at 2.8%, trade at 2.5% and small con­tri­bu­tions from the other in­dus­tries.

Min­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the sec­ond-worst de­cline, at 9.8%, be­tween July and Septem­ber, fol­lowed by elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion and sales, which showed an 8% drop.

Min­ing Trans­port and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions

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