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Drought drying up farms in several provinces

The North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape are hardest hit by the drought.

FILE: The expected shortfall in wheat production will have a knock-on effect on the country’s economy. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - While Agri South Africa has warned that urgent government intervention is needed to avoid a decline in food security in the country, the government has told farmers not to lose hope, and invest in new farming techniques.

The North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape provinces are experiencing the brunt of a harsh drought brought on by poor rainfall.

The department is trying to help secure funding for farmers who are not able to secure credit to replant due to low yields in the worst drought the country's experienced in three decades.

KwaZulu-Natal's sugar cane region has been declared a disaster area and it's been forecasted that rainfall could only return in March next year.

The KZN Growers Association has requested funding from the Industrial Development Corporation, in the wake of the widespread sale of farms, and unsuccessful attempts to secure credit.

Minsister Senzeni Zokwana says farmers should not give up hope.

"All farmers must hang in there. This is going to pass, but from it let's take lessons. If we need to improve the ways and methods of production, let's do that."

He says they've developed new products which could help protect future crops.

"We have produced a drought resistant seed, which I think will come in handy as it is 20 percent resistant to drought."

The drought has also led to a 70 percent spike in the price of maize and a significant increase in the amount of food being imported from overseas.

FUNDING

Zokwana, has encouraged farmers to make applications to his department for more funding.

This to ensure they're able to maintain optimal levels of production amidst the drought

It's estimated more than R2 billion has been lost to the drought.

The Minister has encouraged more farmers, who are in need of assistance, to come forward.

"We will be able to look at any other application for assistance, funds allowing, so that farmers can be able to plant again because if we reduce the level of production, that will have an impact on food prices."

WATER CRISIS

Agri-Wes Cape's Carl Opperaman says the dry conditions in the province could affect wheat production.

"If we look how the harvesting is going and we see what is coming out, there is definitely going to be a shortfall in wheat production. It could be anything between 300, 000-400,000 tonnes which means that there will be an increase in import.

Opperman adds the expected shortfall in wheat production will have a knock-on effect on the country's economy.

"That means we have to get exchange rate to pay for it. The urban people must realise that the rural people are under stress and it is going to have a direct impact on them."

LISTEN: WC farmers may lose millions with drought