SA’s infrastructure may suffer with the current drought

Various other industry players met yesterday for an update on the worst drought in the country in 23 years.

Emaciated cattle roam through the dried up Umfolozi River in Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal as drought conditions affect South Africa. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says the country's infrastructure may struggle to cope with the volume of maize imports required if the drought persists.

Minister Senzeni Zokwana met with Agri SA and various other industry players on Friday, for an update on the worst drought in South Africa in 23 years.

He says the department has set aside just over R600 million to provide drought relief for the agricultural sector.

Zokwana says around five to six million tons of both white and yellow maize may need to be imported this year.

He says while the ports of entry will be able to handle this, the country's infrastructure may not be as reliable.

"The country's infrastructure might struggle to cope with the volume of maize imports required if the drought as abated by the El NiƱo weather phenomenon further disseminates local crops."

Chairman of the Maize Steering Committee, Rod Gravelet-Blondin, says although the country's ports may be able to handle the imports, the challenge will be finding a place for storage.

"Any agricultural produce is not stored in the port itself because the port is really just a through point. If you store it in the port facility, it stops additional produce from coming in."

The minister also says about 4.7 million hectares may be harvested from the current season.