SA drought hits on all sides

Struggling commercial farmers in South Africa are closing shop and others are downsizing their operations and staff to keep afloat.

The market price for cauliflower has increased by as much as 10 times, tomatoes by four and potatoes have almost doubled in the past few months as the impact of the drought starts to show in food shortages and prices, say fresh food producers.

Anton Louw, a farmer in the Hluhluwe area, said the food shortage was already starting to impact on prices.

“The price of vegetables is going through the roof. The market value of a cauliflower that you would pay about R5 for is now R50, 10 times its value. Even tomatoes, that are planted by everyone, are going up because there is a shortage. A kilo used to sell for R5 and now it’s around R20,” he said.

The demand for potatoes is high and there is low yield so the price is going up. If you were paying R20 per 7kg you are now likely to be paying R35, he said.

The KwaZulu-Natal farmers’ union, Kwanalu warned that the situation was an impending disaster for the agricultural sector and the province. It said some farmers were unable to cope and were closing down. This would see further rises in prices and unemployment.

The number of commercial farmers has been declining for years. Only a few thousand remain. Some have retired, others – frustrated by the land reform process – have sought better opportunities in other African countries.

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