South Africa may start importing white and yellow maize from the United States as soon as April or May this year if the ongoing drought continues to negatively affect the agricultural sector, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Monday.
Speaking at a media briefing on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) in Pretoria, Zokwana said the country only had enough maize supplies in stock to last four or five months.
“The country might be compelled to import maize by April or May if nothing new is done,” he said.
Zokwana said that over and above measures implemented to save water, the country needed to drill new boreholes, build new stockpiles, save livestock, and deal with the challenges of fires.
If South Africa ends up importing maize, food prices will go up.
Under Agoa, import levies are eliminated on more than 7,000 South African products entering the US market, ranging from textiles to manufactured items, and is a programme which benefits 39 sub-Saharan African nations.
Under the Act, South Africa enjoys duty-free access for several farm exports. The total two-way trade between South Africa and the US was about R217 billion last year.
South Africa had until Monday to remove barriers preventing imports of US chicken, pork, and beef, or lose the duty-free benefits for its agricultural exports under Agoa.
Zokwana, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi were giving an update on the Agoa negotiations on Monday.