Cosatu calls for probe into increasing maize price

Cosatu says traders are manipulating the price of maize, which has a huge impact on poor communities.

Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called for competition authorities to investigate the increase in maize prices, saying they're being manipulated by traders.

The price of maize has roughly doubled in a year as the worst drought in over a century scorches production across key farming regions.

"Cosatu wants the investigation concluded as a matter of urgency and the perpetrators to be jailed for undermining South Africans' food security through price manipulation," the federationsaid in a statement.

The price for South Africa's white maize March contract climbed 2.4 percent yesterday to a record high of more than R5,000 a tonne as concerns over the drought weighed.

Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana announced on Friday that the country needs to import between 5 and 6 million tonnes of maize after hot weather and poor rainfall ruined a third of the crop.

The trade union federation says it appears that traders are manipulating the price of maize which is having a huge impact on poor communities

Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said, "We need to closely look at the underlying issues are which have led to the escalation of the price of maize. We know that 65 percent of workers earn R5,000 a month and that means it constitutes what we call the 'working poor' and those are people who can't keep up with demand."

LISTEN: Economist at Grain SA Wandile Sihlobo talks about how the worst drought is set to affect food and meat prices in SA.

"It would seem that traders are manipulating the price of maize, where it is being bought and sold. This has a huge impact on poor communities who are dependent on maize as a basic food item," Cosatu added.

Grain SA economist Wandile Sihlobo said this will be passed on to consumers.

Cosatu has called for traders who manipulate prices to be jailed, saying they undermine South Africa's food security.

While South Africa's ailing economy and low production has affected food prices in the country, Cosatu says the escalation of maize prices needs to be scrutinised.

Pamla said, "We need to look at a law that will hold those businesses responsible not only when it comes to punishing them but also looking at the management structure."

He says millions of unemployed South Africa's are the hardest hit.

"It's criminally wrong for anyone to push food prices when the socio economic dynamics of this country show we are in trouble."

Cosatu says it's clear that businesses and producers are colluding in manipulating prices and has called for the competition commission to investigate urgently.