SOUTH AFRICA - The drought had caused losses of R16bn to the agricultural sector but the situation had improved since January because of better rainfall, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Tuesday.
The R16bn figure, he told a media briefing about the work of the economics cluster of ministers, had been calculated by stakeholders.
The minister said the government’s response to the drought crisis now amounted to more than R1bn, including an allocation of R528m to smallholder farmers and at least R130m to support indebted commercial farmers by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Land Bank.
The IDC had committed R500m in soft loans to farmers and Mr Zokwana said talks were under way for the Treasury to stand surety for indebted farmers who needed funds for the next season’s plantings.
"As the drought has a direct impact on the country’s food security, we will import an estimated four million tons of maize to meet domestic needs," the minister said. This would include 1.2-million tonnes of white maize for human consumption and 2.7-million tonnes of yellow maize.
Mr Zokwana said this year’s crop was now estimated at 7.2-million tonnes. Maize stocks would last until April.
He rejected the need for government to declare the situation a national disaster given the improvement in provinces hit by drought. Calling a national disaster would result in banks reducing their exposure to the sector in future. "I don’t think calling a national disaster would assist."
The media statement released by the cluster said the government was negotiating with a Chinese consortium to invest $3.9bn in metallurgical technology, processing, steel plant, mining construction and energy in Musina’s special economic zone