The government has called for calm and dispelled fears of possible food shortages in the country due to supply constraints as a result of Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
THE GOVERNMENT has called for calm and dispelled fears of possible food shortages in the country due to supply constraints as a result of Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
Minister of Agriculture Thoko Dididza on Tuesday said there was no need to panic over the possibility of an impending food crisis as prices also continue to escalate.
Didiza last week met with food processors, leaders in the fruit and grains industry, agricultural trading groups, and farmer associations to discuss availability of food supplies and farming inputs amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The engagement evaluated the availability of the food supplies and farming input supplies for the coming months.
Didiza said that South Africa had sufficient supplies for the foreseeable future after benefiting from good harvests, and has already imported a large share of products.
“We have gained enough understanding of our available food supplies and are confident that there are sufficient supplies for South Africa and the neighbouring countries for the foreseeable future, and therefore no need to panic that the country could experience shortages,” she said.
“We have benefited from good harvests of a range of crops and fruits and have already imported a large share of products that we are import-dependent on, such as wheat and rice.”
Russia and Ukraine are meaningful contributors to the global food chain, accounting for at least 30 percent of the world’s wheat exports, 20 percent of maize exports and 80 percent of sunflower oil exports.
South Africa imported goods valued at R458 million from Russia in the year to September 2021, including nitrogenous fertiliser, mixed minerals or chemical fertilisers, petroleum and coal.
The country also imported R748m worth of goods from Ukraine in the year to November 2021, including wheat, buckwheat, dried legumes and linseed.
However, economists have warned that food prices will continue to increase due to high input costs as the global oil price remains elevated at multi-year highs at more than $100 (R1,494) a barrel.
Nedbank Group economist Candice Reddy said the Russia-Ukraine war has undoubtedly shaken the commodity market, particularly for some food products (grains) and oil and gas.
Reddy said Russia’s fertilisers market share will add further upward pressure on farmer input costs as supplies remained constrained.
“South Africa is a net importer of wheat and vegetable oil, but our reliance on Russia and Ukraine are not that significant. Last year’s record wheat harvest has reduced South Africa’s dependence on import volumes.”
The latest data from the February 2022 Household Affordability Index shows that the average cost of food baskets, including zero-rated foods such as maize meal, rice, samp and cooking oil, has increased dramatically.
The foods prioritised and bought first in the household food basket increased by R123.14 (5.6 percent) from R2 180.64 in February 2021 to R2 303.78 in February 2022.
Last month, Agri SA warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have serious implications for local food prices.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE