There has been several disturbing rain falls in some parts of South Africa but still, report has it that the rain is not yet enough to wane off the long effect of drought. Food crops are becoming more scarce while the ones available are sold at very high prices. This is the case with South African Potato which is reported to have more than doubled in price in the past few months of 2016.
The crop has the national average price for a 10-kilogram (22-pound) pocket of medium potatoes jump to 63.30 rand ($4) in the week ended March 11 from last year’s average of 28.45 rand.
“This is the highest on record, I don’t think it will go higher than what we see,” Pieter van Zyl, an agricultural economist at Potatoes South Africa, said by phone on March 15.
With rainfall at its lowest rate since 1904 with its peak in 2015, the nation’s crop out put has seriously diminished. Farmers in potato-producing provinces such as Limpopo, which has the biggest output, the Free State and the North West need rain to fill boreholes and dams.Other crops such as grains, wine grapes and peanuts are also affected by the shallow rain falls.
In 2015, potato farmers in the country were able to produce an average of 46 metric tons per hectare for both irrigated and rain-fed fields. For growers in the eastern Free State, who depend solely on rain, the lack thereof means yields will be two-thirds lower than last year, when they produced 30 tons per hectare.
“Currently they are not even doing 10 tons per hectare — these guys are really struggling,” said Van Zyl.
“There are no exceptions — all the regions have experienced a dry spell, not much rain or no rain at all and excessive heat conditions,” van Zyl said, adding that lack of rain fall is also one of the factors leading to increase in prices of these food products.
Meanwhile, the Water and Sanitation Department in Johannesburg said while recent rains have seen a slight improvement in the country’s dam levels, the relief is no cause for celebration adding that the national dam levels have seen a 0.2 percent increase in the last week and are now sitting at 53.7 percent. But officials say this is far less than the 79.5 percent recorded at the same time last year.
The department therefore urged residents to still retain using water sparingly. “we can’t do a song and dance because that amount of rain that has fallen hasn’t made too much of an act on the dam levels” department’s Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said.
As the country experiences its most severe drought since 1992, people were urged by the department to be educated about how to use water sparingly.
“It is critical for us to be able to always have that at the back of our minds that our water is not infinite.”