DROUGHT-HIT SOUTH AFRICAN FARMERS STRUGGLING TO REPAY DEBTS

JOHANNESBURG, — An agricultural economist from North West University, Dr Johnny van der Merwe, says 15,000 farmers across South Africa are facing financial constraints following losses incurred as a result of the recent drought which hit many farms.

This has led to the auctioning of more properties as farmers struggle to pay off their loans. Last week, the first summer rains fell in many parts of the country and maize farmers will begin planting next week.

However, many are having to deal with the severe drought conditions over the past couple of years, which have taken its toll on many of them. Their debts have been piling up, leaving financial institutions with no other choice but to put their farms on auction.

Van der Merwe says farmers are barely making ends meet. Currently, it is estimated that 15,000 farms are currently with their backs against the wall, due to the drought. The problem is that loans are piling up, which increases the repayment amount that farmers need to adhere to every year,” he adds.

The lack of rain is not the only factor which has contributed to the bad situation that farmers find themselves in. The downturn in the South African economy has also impacted negatively on the agricultural sector.

Sixty per cent of our inputs — the fertilizer, the seeds, the fuel that we buy — is imported or based on imparity. So, as soon as the exchange rate weakens, we are in a bad position, says Grain South Africa spokesperson Derick Matthews.

As a maize farmer himself, Matthews only managed to plant 50 hectares in 2015, as opposed to his usual 1,500 hectares, because of the drought.

Although experts have predicted normal rainfall and good harvests this year, he fears that farmers might not be able to recover from the losses they have suffered. Even though we might have a good crop, we might be in trouble, because our prices will drop to export imparity.”

South Africa imported white maize in 2015 for the first time in decades. However, there is hope that the country will produce enough maize in 2017 to meet local demand.

Source: Nam News Network