SA may need to import 6 million tons of maize - minister

JANUARY 15, 2016

As the crippling drought continues, South Africa might need to import between five and six million tons of maize, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Friday.

"From the food security perspective, reports point out that the country’s infrastructure might struggle to cope with the volume of maize imports required if a drought, exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon, further disseminates the local crop," he told reporters in Pretoria.

"In the worst case scenario, the nation would probably need to import as much as four million tons of maize. There is a possibility of five to six tons import needs of both white and yellow maize. Combining with the predicted regional needs such as Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, import needs will be at 10.9 million tons, covering other commodities such as soya and wheat,” said Zokwana.

Zokwana said conditions were poor in the maize triangle (Mpumalanga, Free State and North West), with conditions in Mpumalanga slightly more positive. The country has seen higher temperatures coupled with little rainfall, which is impacting on farmers.  

"There is average to above average [rainfall] in the eastern part, but the rest is showing poor conditions. There is also concern for the animal industry due to poor veld conditions. Follow up rain is therefore needed to sustain better maize conditions in the east," he said.