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Free State Agriculture (FSA) is concerned about the impact that a confluence of circumstances may have on food prices and food security in Southern Africa.
Francois Wilken, president of FSA, mentions that various aspects currently have a major impact on agriculture, including:
– The shock rises in crude oil prices pushing diesel upwards to new record prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war – diesel makes up 10% input from conventional maize production.
– ESKOM’s massive dependence on diesel – Large-scale theft of diesel from our national pipeline network polluting our drinking water resources.
– The closure of South Africa’s fuel refineries
– Doubling of imported fertilizer and agricultural chemicals prices.
“All these factors make farmers in the Free State think twice about their capital investments and plant strategy going forward,” says Wilken. “Farmers who have capital available are rather investing in alternative energy to get completely off the ESKOM network due to the total unreliability of ESKOM as well as the above-inflation price increases over the past few years.”
Dr Jack Armour, commercial manager of FSA, also adds that unaffordable input cost increases cause maize to no longer be affordable in the conventional way. “The increasing international demand for maize and sorghum for biofuels could push up prices while crude oil prices remain so high.”
Kempen Nel, FSA management member and irrigation farmer from Jacobsdal, says he is already well advanced with plans to be able to irrigate independently of ESKOM power. “What the war in Ukraine teaches us is that agriculture is difficult to operate without power and diesel. Products cannot be transported for trade and therefore food cannot be taken from the farms to the cities. There is not even access to drinking water and it is becoming a battle for one’s own survival. Energy, water and food security therefore go hand in hand. Farmers must therefore plan to be more adaptable to outside energy and fuel dependence. “Unfortunately, maize production, which is the main source of food for our nation, does not seem to be an attractive option within these uncertainties.”