Amount of maize SA needs to import shoots up

January 16, 2016, 7:12am

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana briefs the media on drought relief and Grain imports. Picture: GCIS on BDLive

By Wyndham Hartley, Business Day Live

THE estimated amount of maize that SA will need to import this year has risen to between 5-million tonnes and 6-million tonnes, up from the earlier estimate of four-million, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Friday after a meeting with private-sector maize organisations.

Mr Zokwana told a news conference it was urgent that SA start importing the grain, or the country could run out of maize for both human and animal consumption.

Mr Zokwana’s statement followed the Democratic Alliance’s call on Thursday for the drought to be declared a national disaster. His Cabinet colleague, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, hinted that there would be more money for drought relief in the February budget.

Mr Zokwana indicated that the country would start to run out of maize from the end of May, and that that date was eyed for the start of importing of maize. Without imports, the country would be without maize in September.

He said that the meeting discussed the infrastructure needed to both transport and store the imports, saying that the country was ready.

Jannie de Villiers of Grain SA said the price tag would run into billions — probably more than R20bn.

Mr Zokwana said that government had engaged with the Land Bank and the Industrial Development Corporation over the provision of soft loans to embattled farmers.