The southern part of Africa is at risk of possible food shortage over the next few months due to a severe drought in the ‘maize belt’ of South Africa.
This is as a result of the lack of rain that struck the country which had caused crop failure rates of over 50 percent, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.
Experts estimated that almost half of South Africa’s population is currently struggling to afford even the most basic foodstuffs. Those who can afford to, are storing the foodstuff for an unknown future.
A large number of South Africa’s population use maize as an important food item almost on a daily basis, but the price of maize has risen by 150% and experts say this will have a great impact on the economy and cause massive food shortage.
The WFP said that in South Africa, production of maize was estimated to have dropped by a third compared to last year, putting it on track for a harvest of 9.665 million tonnes, it gets worse in eight years.
UN agency has said in a report that apart from South Africa, which produces more than 40 percent of the maize used in the region, the drought was also likely to affect harvests in other southern countries like -southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and Madagascar.
Malawi’s problems of being landlocked and exhausted were worsened by heavy rains and flooding in early January which destroyed their crops and roads. “Of great concern is Zimbabwe, which is facing an unfolding huge food shortage due to a threatening widespread of crop failure,” it added.
If the present drought should persist, then the worst period of food shortage is expected to come in between March and April,
Agri South Africa says while it battle to keep up with low production, market forces and an increase in demand, its focus is on food security and affordability. They are concerned about how to get maize into the country
Grain SA has also warned that just 50 percent of the land usually used for cultivation of maize in South Africa has been utilized due to the outbreak of the worst drought in decades.
It says it’s now too late for heavy rains to help remedy the situation and has estimated that maize imports will range between 5 and 6 million tons this year at a cost of between R17 billion and R20 billion.
AgriSA’s Omri van Zyl says the unfolding situation is largely due to a high market demand that has been aggravated by the current drought in the country.
“Farmers are selling their livestock off because of the drought. This is the effect of extreme weather conditions, like we’re having with the national drought.”
Experts are encouraging families to use their private land for growing some of their own basic plant needs irrespective of the amount they produce.
“Given the current situation, micro-family farming has to be revived. Rising food prices severely affect nearly half the population, who spend up to 70% of their money on food,” Rob Small, founder of the Farm and Garden National Trust, explains.
Experts expressed concerns that this increase in prices could lead to security risks and violent protests from the hungry masses. Violence may erupt as a result of lack of access to food in regions where food is scarce and where there are transportation limitations in getting the food to the people.
Unfortunately, last year’s outbreak of anti-foreigner riots (xenophobia) in South Africa, in which at least seven were killed and thousands more forced to flee South Africa, might also lead to a drop in remittance flows from other countries and Africa’s most advanced economy, thereby adding to the problems of food shortage in nearby countries, the WFP said.