The devastating impact of the South African drought on KwaZulu-Natal livestock farmers, now threatens job security and holds another blow for consumers as a shortage of beef will lead to a steep rise in meat prices by July.
The current drought, one of the worst in recent years, has forced commercial beef farmers in the province to sell most of their stock.
Besides this, an estimated 40 000 cattle have already died, KZN Red Meat Producers’ Organisation RPO chairperson Hendrik Botha said yesterday.
Even though rains along the region have been fairly good recently “the damage has already been done”, said Botha.
He also expected the employment rates to plummet in the sector as farmers let go of employees they cannot afford to pay.
“And then we will find lower income households being affected. What we want is for government to assist us to survive economically. I mean, we produce the country’s food …
“I’m afraid there will be a shortage in the next couple of months. Within the next six to nine months we should see a rise in prices – the imports at our exchange rate is also a big factor. The prediction is a 10 to 15% rise. Prices are also based on supply and demand,” he added.
Through RPO’s correlation with its members, Zululand in northern KwaZulu-Natal was found to be the hardest hit by the drought, including Vryheid and Hluhluwe.
“Commercial beef farmers had to sell most of their stock and emerging farmers lost tremendous amounts, losing about 60 percent in November.
“Remember, the drought has been ongoing over the last three to four years,” he said in describing the “huge” losses.
“But we have to keep positive,” said Botha.
“I think if we get good rain, the grass areas could be allright for the winters.”
Farmers were further advised by RPO to keep planning economically and not succumbing to retailing their breeding animals – the nucleus of their business. The drought affected animal feeds and water supplies enormously, and government was not as “farmer friendly”, as in other countries, he said.