JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AA) – Thousands of cattle are dying as drought makes it impossible for farmers to raise them; the drought is also killing crops leading to a rise in food prices.
Cattle farmers in the country’s Free State province are being forced to slaughter or sell their animals at low prices, as the drought, which began in the summer of last year, kills the grass they feed on.
Food prices are expected to increase as production has been severely reduced by the drought.
Wandile Shilobo, an economist at Grain South Africa, told Anadolu Agency in an interview last month that there has been a 27 percent decrease in summer crops which include maize, soybeans and sugar cane.
Shilobo said maize harvests have significantly declined. In 2014, South Africa produced slightly over 14 million tons of maize, but harvests decreased to 9.9 million tons in 2015, the expert said.
Meat, on the other hand, is in oversupply as cattle die off.
‘‘Thousands of cattle have died. And farmers are now paying high prices for animal feed, making it difficult for farmers to substitute it for grass,’’ Dr. Jack Armour, Free State’s Agriculture operational manager, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
He said as the drought gets worse, farmers are left with the option of either selling or slaughtering their animals. “Abattoirs are full up processing meat,’’ he said.
Abel Mzuzwana, a cattle farmer with a large herd of cows in Bloemfontein, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday he has already lost 49 of the animals due to the drought.
“We are facing a huge challenge as farmers. There is no grass at my farm,” Mzuzwana said.
The farmer said that the government helped him with animal feed last year, but feed is now scarce.
Mzuzwana, who has been farming for nearly a decade, says he was also forced to sell 43 of his cattle at low prices.
“I sold each cow at ZAR 2,500 (approximately $150.30), yet before the drought I would sell the same cow for ZAR 3,500 ($210.43) or even more,’’ he said.
South Africa has been experiencing unusually high temperatures that experts attribute to El Nino, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean, which has caused a massive heat wave throughout Southern Africa, with rainfall drastically decreased.
Grain South Africa said last week, the country needs to import over 5 million tons of maize.
According to the World Food Program, the impact of El Nino is expected to last until 2017, affecting the food security of millions of people.
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