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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Diesel price increase threatens food security

The knock-on effect could result in a national crisis.


Never mind the ongoing load shedding stages and recent water restrictions, consumers can also look forward to diesel price increases that may have a ripple effect on the public pocket.

TLU SA General Manager Bennie van Zyl said he was very concerned about the current diesel shortage and the increase in diesel because it could result in a national crisis for the country and threaten our food security.

“Before the previous diesel increase, we already paid about R8 more per litre than a year ago. Now it is plus R1.50 extra from next month. It leads any farmer to the question, is it still possible to make a profit,” he said.

Van Zyl said the high input cost was rising, not only in diesel increases but also seeds, artificial fertilizer, and chemicals increased dramatically.

“It has a much bigger effect that can come into play. Food security could be compromised in the medium and long term,” he said.

All farmers affected

Van Zyl said the problems at the ports added to the stress because the harvests goods were stuck and reaching their shelf life while farmers were losing money.

“The unreliability of Eskom’s power supply also plays a role as the cost of creating alternative power is just too expensive. Then you have to get generators and diesel is already expensive. It’s an evil cycle,” he said.

Van Zyl said there wasn’t a farmer who wasn’t affected by the diesel price.

“Farmers in the Northern Cape still have started complaining about profits before the increases. They say they can’t make ends meet anymore, they were not making a profit anymore,” he said.

Free State cattle farmer Tewie Wessels said last year the inset costs were around R12 000 per hectare of maize.

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“This year we are already at around R22 000 per hectare,” he said.

Wessels said they were fortunate because they had a good season last year.

“But that was at lower production costs. Now with the increases, it may change. You have to make an above-average harvest to have a good season. It becomes a gamble when you depend on a good harvest to make ends meet and it’s no longer profitable to farm,” he said.

Wessels said they were praying for a good harvest this season.

“If we don’t have a good harvest season, we will struggle and food prices will go up. We have to have a good harvest to survive at this point. If you have an average harvest this season, you are likely to break even or sell at a loss,” he explained.

Free State Agriculture

Commercial Manager and Agriculture economist Jack Amour said farmers couldn’t plant as efficient with the current diesel shortages and load shedding.

“It just started raining in the Free State and Bloemfontein a major maize-producing area. Traditionally on 15 October, Paul Kruger’s birthday, the farmers start planting maize. With the rain that fell it was now a good time to start planting,” he said.

Amour added diesel increases, load shedding and diesel shortages due to strike action played a role in the planting, harvesting and profit of the harvests.

“Over time farmers will stop planting maize because it is becoming too expensive and will plant other more profitable plants. The demand for maize will go up and so will the prices,” he said.

Amour said smaller-scale farmers may also decide to pack up rather than farm at a loss.

“Government can’t expect farmers to continue to create jobs if the government does create the environment for agriculture to be profits,” he said.

ALSO READ: Load shedding a threat to food security – Agri SA

Automobile Association (AA) said consumers should brace themselves for more expensive fuel in November after mid-month data from the Central Energy Fund (CEF) indicated increases to all fuels were likely in the new month.

“The current data shows petrol is expected to increase between 41 and 51 cents a litre.The real concern now is the likely increases in diesel prices. The data shows diesel will climb by around R1.60 per litre, a substantial increase in this fuel’s price. The impact of such an increase on ordinary citizens will be significant,” said the AA.

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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