South Africa Declares Drought Disaster in No. 1 Corn Province

  • Drought has affected livestock, crop farmers in Free State
  • Declaration enables legislation to help farmers financially

The government of South Africa’s biggest corn-growing province declared its drought a disaster, with all municipalities and districts affected.

“Even if it rains now or tomorrow, this drought is not going to be over,” Mafa Mokoaqo, manager of the Free State Agriculture Department’s disaster management risk unit, said by phone Thursday. “The rains are sporadic, they are not going to be enough to resolve the drought issues.” The province produced 44 percent of the nation’s corn in the 2014 season.

The worst drought since 1992 this year hurt produce in the Free State and North West provinces, which accounted for almost two-thirds of corn output last year, and prompted the nation to start importing the grain. The Crop Estimates Committee predicts this season’s harvest will be 9.84 million metric tons, the smallest since 2007. Last year’s intake was the biggest in 33 years at 14.3 million metric tons.

Grain SA, the nation’s biggest representative of corn farmers, said it welcomes the declaration as it will help enable legislation to support farmers financially, Chief Executive Officer Jannie de Villiers said.

“The new summer season is upon us and the grazing is at its worst,” De Villiers said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The lack of rain has helped cause local prices of white corn, used to make a staple food known as pap, to surge 48 percent this year. That of the yellow type, used mainly as animal feed, has risen 34 percent.

"The yield for some crops like sunflower and maize will be severely affected this season and it’s going to be very low, which will push the price of basic food commodities very high,” according to the agriculture department’s Mokoaqo.

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