Narissa Subramoney
Copy rewriter
3 minute read
23 Mar 2022
12:03 pm

SA small scale farmers need to be cushioned from effects of Russia-Ukraine conflict

Narissa Subramoney

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Protect South Africa's poor and small scale farmers from looming food security crisis.

A sign is placed on almost empty shelves of bread and other wheat-based food products that reads in French "one bag per person", at a supermarket in the Tunisian capital Tunis, on March 13, 2022.(Photo by Anis MILI / AFP)

NPO Afrika Tikkun Foundation (ATF) has warned that South Africa’s poor and small scale farmers will need to be cushioned from the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Food supply shortages and price hikes have already begun to affect South Africans and requires immediate government response.

“We are concerned about the warnings suggesting small-scale farmers and the poor are suffering the consequences of the geopolitical crisis in Europe,” said ATF CEO Alef Meulenberg.

Source: Grain SA and Agri SA: Ukraine – Russia, Neil Coetzee 2022.

The Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Department said the country experienced good harvests for a range of crops and fruits.

Wheat and rice imported

The department has also already imported a large share of products that they are import-dependent on, including wheat and rice.

But ATF said despite experiencing two consecutive good seasons for grain harvesting, South Africa may still face a looming food security crisis, because of inflation.

“There have been record global price hikes including in the USA where the consumer price reached a 40-year high, jumping 7,9% annually. 

Global market shake-ups have shot up the price of fuel in several countries including South Africa,” said Meulenberg.

ATF, which works in youth development, is also concerned about the spike in the price of fertiliser because Russia is the world’s largest exporter of potash fertiliser. 

“This has, in turn, affected food production prices in South Africa which could be passed on to the South African consumer,” warned Meulenberg.

A report compiled by the Agri SA Economic Centre of Excellence, suggests that escalating conflict in the Black Sea region poses new challenges to global food markets with soaring prices and supply-chain disruptions. 

These developments follow a slight global recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Increased costs in the production of grains, including maize and wheat could see a major bread price hike in three months’ time because Ukraine and Russia account for a combined 30% of the world’s wheat exports. 

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The harbours of Odessa and the Black Sea serve as major conduits for international grain shipments from Ukraine, which is also among the top exporters of barley, maize, sunflower and other oilseeds. 

But Agricultural Minister Thoko Didiza said on Tuesday there was no need to panic over shortages because the country has enough availability of food supplies for the coming months.

“We have gained enough understanding of our available food supplies and are confident that there are sufficient supplies for South Africa and the neighbouring Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries for the foreseeable future,” said Didiza.

Didiza made the remarks following a meeting with food processors, including leaders in the fruit and grains industry, agricultural trading groups, and farmer associations to discuss the availability of food suppliers and farming inputs.

The consultation was part of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team assessment of risks to the South African economy during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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